Teaching Tools

A series of modules and classroom handouts for middle and high school students that engage with the themes of this website.


Handouts not yet produced.


1. What government actions can repair past and ongoing injustice?

How much or little are people and politicians today responsible for the wrongdoings of their ancestors and politicians before them? This handout reflects on a word you have been hearing a lot these past few years: reparations. For some people, reparations means cash payments to the descendants of people who were former slaves, to their great grandchildren and distant relatives, for instance. For other people, reparations includes specific government policies like affirmative action that benefits those historically excluded from colleges and universities. For others still, reparations means recognition that injustices were done and must be documented and exposed. Some forms of reparations are more controversial than others. Related concepts like “Criticial Race Theory” make many people scared. In this exercise, students consider one form that justice might take: space. Architecture and planning must be tools for social justice in Detroit.


2. How did racial segregation shape the way Detroit’s streets, highways, and public spaces were designed?

In this exercise, students examine historic maps of poverty and injustice to understand the different forms that prejudice takes. Some forms of racism are visible to all: separate bathrooms, schools, and spaces for different races; rules and signs in public spaces that say “Whites only;” neighborhoods where everyone is of the same race despite living in a multicultural and multiracial country. Walking down the street, these forms of racism would be visible in plain site.

Most of these forms of explicit racism were made illegal as a result of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. But the forms of racism that still exist are less obvious to outsiders: streets designed to divide communities; dirty and dangerous industries concentrated in areas where poorer and non-White people live; less access to fresh food and public transportation for specific people in specific neighborhoods. Walking down the street, for instance, you cannot see poisons buried in the ground and floating in the air that make people nearby sick. Nor do you have X-ray vision to see inside the local jail and abuse behind closed doors.

However, these less visible forms of racism become visible through the act of mapping. Map making sees the bigger picture of the city from above. Students examine interactive maps on this website to see how highways, urban renewal projects, housing policies, and the work of architects and planners divided their community.


3. How has suburban sprawl altered the patterns of racial segregation?

Government policies like redlining (that marked almost all of Detroit as unsafe for investment) and US military spending (that encouraged factories to relocate from the city to the suburbs) pulled economic energy away from Detroit. At one time, most manufacturing was concentrated in the city. Now, most manufacturing happens in suburbs outside Detroit, pushing Detroit residents to often time-consuming and long-distance commutes. Suburban growth has also increased the physical distance between Black and White communities, who at one time lived within a few blocks of or across the street from each other. The psychological barrier of the color line has become the physical barrier of distance. In this module, students read passages from Kenneth T. Jackson’s book Crabgrass Frontier and then consider the racial and spatial impact of suburban growth on their own neighborhood.


4. How can maps of race, wealth, poverty, and public health visualize the geographies of injustice?

This exercise designed for schools that have a STEM curriculum teaches students on creating interactive maps on Social Explorer and interrogating these maps for the patterns of inequality and injustice they reveal.

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