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Grand Opera House of Mississippi lesson plan


Having been chosen by the Mississippi Legislature as one of the state’s “official” symbols, the Grand Opera House in Meridian is poised again to receive the attention and audiences it once garnered in its heyday around the turn of the 20th century. In this lesson, students will become familiar with the building, its history, and its current usage. They will recognize the significance to a community of structures in which the arts and entertainment can be offered.


Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1 - 5.


Grades 4 (with modifications) through 12.


Mississippi History Now article, “Grand Opera House of Mississippi”

Blank overhead transparencies

Butcher paper and markers (for acrostic)


The student will:

discuss features of a community (town, city) that make it attractive to its citizens;

trace the history of the Grand Opera House in Meridian;

compare the types of entertainment offered in the Grand Opera House, then and now;

realize the importance of preserving historical places and buildings in their communities.


Working in small groups, students will brainstorm a list of features in their communities that are important to their well-being. Have each group transfer its list to an overhead transparency and share with the class. Teacher will lead students to place in their notes the items on which the groups agreed. (EXAMPLE: hospitals, schools, libraries, grocery stores, churches, museums, etc.) If students did not mention theaters, movie houses, or video stores, ask them about various entertainment venues available to them. Let the students discuss how important the places for the performing arts are in the life of their community.



In addition to the photographs illustrating the article, “Grand Opera House of Mississippi,” show pictures of the Grand Opera House at the following website: http://www.rileycenter.msstate.edu. (Site accessed August 2006.) Allow students to comment on the architecture and size of the building and to compare it with the movie complexes of today. Lead them to speculate about the types of entertainment available to communities prior to radio, television, and movies. While many communities offered a place where the public could gather for entertainment, the Grand Opera House in Meridian stands out among them because of its programs, size, architecture, and grandeur.


Motivate students to read the Mississippi History Now article, “Grand Opera House of Mississippi,” by telling them that the Grand Opera House is home to a ghost. Tell them to look for any “ghostly” references in the article.


In small groups have students discuss what they learned and then construct a timeline together showing the history of the Grand Opera House. (Assure students of more information to come on the “ghost.”)


Using a “master” timeline on the board or overhead, teacher will lead a discussion to determine that students have accomplished the objective. Several noteworthy points should be mentioned as the discussion continues:

reasons for the construction of the Grand Opera House;

the contributions of immigrants to our communities;

some of the famous entertainers who “played” the Grand Opera House;

race and class in the Grand Opera House;

causes of its demise;

reasons for renovation.


Ask students to read the article again to make a list of the type of entertainment available in the Grand Opera House during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Let them speculate on what types of programs might be offered now. Have them visit the Riley Center website (see link above), click on “See All Upcoming Events” and make a list of the upcoming programs. Have students circle the ones they might be interested in attending. Let them share these thoughts with the entire class.


Lead a discussion on the importance of preserving historic places and buildings such as the Grand Opera House. Let students provide additional examples of historic preservation throughout the state. They may mention the antebellum homes of Natchez, the Vicksburg Military Park, Old Capitol building, Medgar Evers home, Alamo Theater in Jackson, the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, etc.


Ask students to identify any places in their community which have been designated as historical sites and lead them to suggest others that may need to be investigated as historical sites. In small groups, ask them to prepare a brief presentation to the local governing board indicating reasons for the preservation of such a site(s).



Ask the students to prepare a large acrostic using the name, GRAND OPERA HOUSE.
For each letter, they should add a fact regarding the history and usage of the building.


Either tell students about the “ghost” associated with the Grand Opera House or allow them to access http://johnnorrisbrown.com/paranormal-tn/ms/opera.htm to read the brief article. (Site accessed August 2006)



Participation in class discussions and group work


Completion of timeline and entertainment comparison list


Completion of presentation


Acrostic construction



Students may wish to learn more about historic preservation by accessing the Mississippi Department of Archives and History web site: http://mdah.state.ms.us and click on Historic Preservation.


Following up with an actual presentation to their local governing board regarding historical preservation will provide students an opportunity to exercise their rights as citizens in a democracy.


To find out more about Meridian, access http://discoverourtown.com/MS/Meridian. (Site accessed August 2006)


And, of course, visit the MSU Riley Center for Education and Performing Arts in Meridian.

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