Celebrating Black History Month

STANTON TOWNSHIP – Local districts are doing a number of things to educate their students about the black experience in America during Black History Month.

Black history is woven into the curriculum at Stanton Township Schools year-round. But it does intensify in January and Februrary, said school Superintendent Mary Durocher.

Kindergarten and second-grade students learn about Abraham Lincoln and freeing the slaves. They also wrote poetry about leadership in honor of Martin Luther King. Other topics were Ruby Bridges, who in 1960 became the first black child to attend a public elementary school in New Orleans, and black inventors such as George Washington Carver.

Third through eighth grades go more into the Ruby Bridges story and also learn about Rosa Parks, the Great Migration from the South to northern industrial centers such as Chicago, and the Underground Railroad. Third- through fifth-graders also learn about black sports leaders.

“They get into the black inventors more in grades 6-8, but they concentrate on the ones that weren’t given the credit,” Durocher said. Among them is Lewis Latimer, a member of Thomas Edison’s team who made improvements to the light bulb filament that made widespread electric lighting practical.

At Elm River Township Schools, students spent a day learning about Martin Luther King. The students did a variety of activities: listening to King’s “I Have a Dream” speech from the March on Washington, reading articles about King, watching videos, doing coloring pages and word searches.

“Then we also kind of tied in some children’s books that deal with equality and civil rights,” including books about Bridges, said Mike Aubin, lead teacher at Elm River.

Mark Ware’s 10th-grade Language Arts class at Chassell High School will be reading “Harriet Tubman; The Moses of Her People,” and “Montgomery Bus Boycott.” They will learn more about the bus boycott through watching a series of interviews and speeches given by Rosa Parks available on the educational website Thinkfinity.

Chassell students will then explore concepts of advocacy and citizenship through a series of exercises developed for the Academy of Achievement and available through its website. In a series of exercises, they will discuss the causes and targets of discrimination, expanding their understanding of advocacy. Students will finish by writing a paper on advocacy or discrimination.

Durocher said Black History Month is a vehicle for giving children new perspective on what black people have done.

“With the middle school children, 6-8, they were surprised at how many black inventors were not given credit for what they invented, that it was only given to white people,” she said. “The fourth graders, they understood the underground railroad, but they never knew why black people moved up north to work in the factories. It’s opening their eyes to the history part of it.”