Summative Assessment: Creating a Toolbox for Racial Justice | Facing History & Ourselves
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Summative Assessment: Creating a Toolbox for Racial Justice

In this summative assessment, students reflect on their answer to the unit's essential question in order to create a Toolbox for Racial Justice.


At a Glance

assessment copy


English — US


  • History
  • Social Studies




One 50-min class period
  • Human & Civil Rights
  • Racism
  • Resistance


About This Assessment

In the final assessment, students will apply the lessons they’ve learned from Emmett Till’s story to create a Toolbox for Racial Justice. Students will also be required to complete a writing assignment that explains their tools, how the tools may be used, and how the tools connect to some of the topics addressed in the unit.

In this project, students will apply the lessons they learned from Emmett Till’s story to create a Toolbox for Racial Justice. They will create a real, tangible toolbox that can take a variety of forms: an actual box with a new design or decoration, a hollowed-out old book, a soft-sided sewn object, a picture frame, a shadow box, or something else that represents or relates to their topic. Students’ “tools” can take many forms: paintings, collages or other forms of visual art, poems or favorite quotations, or symbolic objects, to name just a few. 

To complete the project, students will need to reflect on what they have learned in the unit and formative activities and their answer to the essential question: As we pursue racial justice today, what can be learned from the choices people have made in response to racial violence in the past?

Students should also consider the questions that follow when deciding which items to include in their toolbox: 

  • What will I have in my toolbox that will extend my knowledge about what it means to achieve racial justice today?
  • What will I have in my toolbox that will help me translate that knowledge into action? 
  • What will I have in my toolbox that will connect me to the work of previous generations who have fought for racial justice? 
  • What will I have in my toolbox that will connect me to other young people pursuing racial justice? 
  • What will I have in my toolbox that will empower me to be a truth-teller like Ida B. Wells and Mamie Till-Mobley? 
  • What will I have in my toolbox that will help me harness the power of images/and or the media? 
  • What will I have in my toolbox that will sustain me when this work gets hard? 

In addition to the toolbox, students will also complete a short writing assignment that explains their tools, how they imagine they will use each of them, and how the tools connect to some of the topics addressed in the unit (e.g., the role of truth-telling to expose and challenge injustice, the impact of images and the media, and the power of youth activism). 

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

Before teaching this lesson, please review the following information to help guide your preparation process

While the activities listed below are designed to introduce the toolbox project, students will likely need additional time either in or outside of class to finish the project. We encourage teachers to set further guidelines and deadlines for this project that meet the needs of their students. Consider designating a space in your classroom or school to display students’ completed toolboxes.

There are many ways to incorporate toolboxes in the classroom, depending on your goals and the time available. Students can “build” virtual toolboxes or can actually construct three-dimensional toolboxes that can be shared in a gallery walk or presented at a student exhibition. Toolbox projects can be based on content covered in class and/or additional research. Toolboxes also provide a stepping stone to an essay or a class discussion. When students are asked to explain, using evidence, how particular tools can help achieve specific goals, toolbox projects provide an effective way to evaluate student learning at the end of a Facing History unit or course.

Depending on your students’ experience with project-based learning, you may need to create additional scaffolding to help them brainstorm their list of tools, think about how to represent them in their toolboxes, and manage their time. It is always helpful when the teacher provides a model for part of the project to help students visualize abstract concepts. For example, you might create an artifact that represents one of the tools in your toolbox and do a “think aloud” to help students understand your process in coming up with it. Teachers can scaffold this assignment by giving students the option of working with a partner. Such scaffolding is especially helpful for students who are English Learners or who have disabilities, but these steps can also be used to shorten the time it takes to complete the project and provide extra support to all students.

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Lesson Plans


Tell students that they will be working on a project that will support them as they choose how they wish to participate in improving and strengthening their community. Begin by brainstorming the purpose of a toolbox and the items that are typically found inside. After students consider how toolboxes are used to build and fix physical structures, ask them to imagine a figurative toolbox that includes tools that can be used to build and fix our communities—school, local, national, and global.

Pass out the Building a Toolbox for Racial Justice handout. Read the instructions for the project as a whole group and answer any clarifying questions. Then give students the rest of class to work individually or in small groups on their projects. Consider providing additional class time or assigning the project for homework so students have time to complete it as thoughtfully as possible.

Before giving students independent work time to complete the project, you may want to start out with a reflection as they consider the tools needed to enact change. For example, you might ask students to write a reflection in their journals in response to these questions:

  • What “tools”—values, habits of mind, knowledge—do you feel you need in order to participate in the communities around you or address the issues that concern you?
  • In what ways do you feel prepared to participate in the communities around you? In what ways do you feel unprepared to participate? 

Extension Activities

Students can learn a great deal from seeing each other’s toolboxes. Once students have finished their project, you might have them pair up to discuss their choices with a partner. Or students could showcase their toolboxes to the whole class or school community as a gallery walk, student exhibition, or oral presentations. If time is limited, you may ask each student to share one tool from their toolbox with the class. Have students take notes as their classmates share in order to help them remember the variety of tools the class has created. 

After viewing each other’s toolboxes and/or listening to student presentations, provide time for students to reflect in their journals, and then hold a class discussion. Sample reflection and/or discussion questions include the following: 

  • What tools are the most popular? Why might that be the case? 
  • Which tools seem most accessible? To whom? Who might not have access to these tools? Why? 
  • Which tools seem out of your reach at the moment, and what could be done to gain access to them?
  • Were there any “tools” that you would like to add to your toolbox? If so, what were they and why do you need to add them to your toolbox?

Materials and Downloads

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Get this Assessment and its accompanying student materials in PDF and Google Doc format below.

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