Copperfield Academy: Harriet Tubman and Mary Seacole Case Study

Year 3 and Year 6 at Copperfield Academy gave us some great feedback on our two new Experiences celebrating the lives of Harriet Tubman and Mary Seacole. Released for Black History Month, but designed to help broaden the curriculum all year round, we were delighted to hear what the staff and pupils thought of them.


Year 3 Teacher at Copperfield Academy on our Mary Seacole Experience

Why did you choose to use this Experience?

The children are currently in Year 3 but have previously covered learning of Mary Seacole in Year 2, so it was used as a refresher lesson.

The children have prior learning around Mary Seacole and have enjoyed using now>press>play in the past. We also like the ability to immerse all children and support language development of EAL children.

Do you think it’s an effective way to teach pupils about Mary Seacole?

Yes, due to the excitement and the immersion it generates amongst the children. It also sets learning into a context.

Which follow-on resources did you use?
What was the response of the class?

Excitement shown by children when they saw the familiar now>press>play box. Based on this Experience children were shocked at the discrimination Mary Seacole faced.

What was most important to you about this lesson?

The children keeping prior knowledge fresh and linking this to new learning.


Year 3 pupils’ response to our Mary Seacole Experience

What did you learn during the Experience?
  • “We learnt that in the war, Mary Seacole helped lots of soldiers during Crimean War.”
  • “She moved to the UK to make and sell pickles.”
  • “The soldiers she saved raised money for her to get home.”
  • “Florence Nightingale wouldn’t let her work with her.”
How would you describe Mary Seacole?
  • “Kind, helpful, brave”
  • “Independent, brave, resilient”
The best part was…
  • “… when the horrible lady fell in the muddy puddle.”
  • “… when we found out that Mary Seacole went to war to help the soldiers, I particularly liked the sound effects of the war when she arrived.”

“During the Experience I felt excited because I didn't know what was going to happen next and I was thinking what I would need to act out. Scared, happy and shocked.”

Feedback from Executive Headteacher, Simon Wood, on our Harriet Tubman Experience

I believe it was carefully, and age-appropriately sequenced historical context; there was good vocabulary development (and the resources available would clearly support this further), the background music added to the ambience of each section, especially the repetition of “Steal Away…”; also, there was the really good use of questions to generate deeper thought.

Some phrases that resonated with/ for me were:

  • “buy your freedom” – this could lead to considerable discussion, philosophical debate and further enquiry.
  • “birds can fly wherever they want…you are not allowed” – the possibilities here are endless – we could also make links to “The Caged Nightingale” (where the grass isn’t always greener on the other side), and “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou.
  • It was interesting to learn that following the “recapturing escaped slaves” announcement, Black Americans could join the army but Abraham Lincoln shared that they wouldn’t be paid…even as a General! And, possibly, Harriet Tubman never was…

I believe this could lead to greater exploration of what was meant by “enslaved African Americans”, and also how more could be done to recognise that Harriet Tubman was the ‘“First Woman to lead American Soldiers”.

– Simon A Wood, Executive Headteacher, Copperfield Academy


“Judging from the reactions of some of the children, it was a good tool, as they have learnt not just about the unfair treatment of the slaves (which was new to some of them) but how to stand up for justice and how to treat everyone the same regardless of their diversity. Some of the adults have noticed the excitement in some children since the celebration of Black History Month as they maybe feel more included.”


Year 6 pupils’ response to our Harriet Tubman Experience

What did you learn during the Experience?
  • “I learnt that Black people were enslaved and they had a code to help each other.”
  • “I learned that Black people were used as slaves and where they were mostly gotten from Africa and then sold to people.”
  • “I learnt that Black people were slaves and used for being slaves and getting sold in America.”
  • “I learnt that Black people used to be very less fortunate and were mistreated.”
How would you describe Harriet Tubman?
  • “I would describe Harriet Tubman as very courageous and America’s saviour.”
  • “Harriet Tubman is loyal, brave because she went back, saved 700 people, which is very courageous.”
  • “She was brave, caring, helpful. She also went back for her family for a reason and that was that if she left she wouldn’t see her mum again.”
  • “I would describe her as caring and brave, helpful and smart and loyal.”
  • “I would describe Harriet as courageous and brave for saving not just herself, but other people too.”
How did you feel during the Experience?
  • “I felt sad at some times like when they had to be slaves, and I thought it was funny when the chicken was going crazy.”
  • “I felt scared when Harriet was going to be found but she saved everyone.”
  • “I felt mixed emotions because of how Black people were treated and they were used for slaves.”
  • “I feel mixed emotions because when she was in the boat I felt anxious and when she escaped I felt relieved.”
The best part was…
  • “… the ending because they were all glad, happy, joyful, and free.”
  • “… when Harriet wore the helmet and prepared for a mission to save 700 enslaved people.”
  • “… when she escaped and crossed the water to safety.
  • “… when she escaped from slavery for the first time for freedom.”

We’re always working to extend our curriculum offering through new Experiences year on year and are delighted to now have these two Experiences which cover the achievements, lives and challenges of these two inspirational figures. You can explore more of our content on our Experiences page or arrange a free trial for your school here.