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  • Berry College: The Gate of Opportunity

    Martha Berry founded Possum Trot, a log cabin school for rural children, at Oak Hill, on her Rome, Georgia family’s plantation. In addition to receiving academic and religious instruction, her students were trained in manual skills -- students literally helped build the Berry School. This segment includes scenes from a 1950s newsreel recounting the life of Martha Berry. Local historians and former students comment.

    Support Materials

    Discuss

    1. All of the students at the Berry school were required to help with the daily maintenance of the school. Why did Martha Berry believe it was important for the students to have these responsibilities?

    2. Why is Berry called a "Gateway of Opportunity"?

    3. Describe Martha Berry's contribution to the state of Georgia and its people.

    Expansion

    1. Pretend they are Martha Berry. How would they convince another wealthy person or business to donate money to the Berry school?

    2. Discuss with classmates how the Berry School is like your school. In what ways is it different?

    Vocabulary

    activism: the act of showing strong support or dedication to a project or a goal
    benefactors: those who donate gifts, funding, or bequests
    boosterism: efforts to raise funds or supporters in order to increase power or effectiveness
    normal and industrial education: a "normal" education exposes students to general courses designed to be transferable to a wide variety of life experiences; industrial education has a focus on trades or vocations 
    vocations: learning skills in manufacture unique to particular lines of work
    opportunity: a chance; something favorable, convenient, providing a condition that is desirable
    poverty: the quality or state of being poor; having little money, low financial security
    scholarship: usually a grant providing financial support for a student
    trustee: a person to whom property is legally committed in trust, to be applied either for the benefit of specified individuals, or for public uses
    volunteerism: the act of donating time and energy to causes of personal concern without monetary compensation

    For Teachers

    Discussion Guide

    1. All of the students at the Berry school were required to help with the daily maintenance of the school. Why did Martha Berry believe it was important for the students to have these responsibilities?
    Working while at the school taught practical skills and helped the school save money. 

    2. Why is Berry called a "Gateway of Opportunity"?
    Martha Berry felt that education was critical in enabling people to realize their full potential. She felt that the poor people in her community were every bit as capable as any other people anywhere else in the world. They just needed a chance to learn. Hence, Berry School became a "Gate of Opportunity," an opportunity for people to receive a solid, well-rounded education so that they might advance in life (and, simultaneously, advance the nation as a whole).

    3. Describe Martha Berry's contribution to the state of Georgia and its people.
    Martha Berry founded the Berry School, which provided free spiritual, practical and academic instruction to rural Georgians who might otherwise have been deprived of an education due to lack of money or geographical inaccessibility of schools. 

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