San Marino Unified School District is Celebrating Black History Month
In the San Marino Unified School District February is a month with a great deal to reflect on and celebrate. We have Valentine’s Day on February 14, Presidents Day Holidays on Friday, February 18 [Lincoln’s Birthday Observed], and February 21 [Washington’s Birthday (Federal Holiday)] and the considerably important topic of this communique: Black History Month, which pays tribute to the incredible sacrifices and contributions of African Americans who were instrumental in helping to develop our great nation.
Black History Month provides us with an opportunity to explore and learn about the heritage, accomplishments, hardships and culture of African Americans, all of which are deeply rooted in our country's rich history. In 1976, while celebrating our bicentennial, President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month. According to the Ford Library Museum, Ford called upon Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history".
Each year the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) chooses a particular theme. The ASALH 2022 theme, Black Health and Wellness, pays tribute to Black medical health care providers, medical scholars and other Black healthcare workers. After having experienced the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years, this years’ theme is exceptionally meaningful especially given that black communities have been disproportionately and adversely impacted by the pandemic. Here are some examples of how each of our schools are teaching our students about Black History:
Carver Elementary School
Carver students are learning to explain how the present is connected to the past, identifying both similarities and differences between the two. Students differentiate between primary and secondary sources and pose relevant questions about events they encounter in historical documents, eyewitness accounts, oral histories, letters, diaries, artifacts, photographs, maps, etc. Students distinguish fact from fiction by comparing documentary sources on historically relevant African American figures and events with fictionalized characters and occurrences. Students summarize the key findings of the era they are studying and explain the historical contexts of those events.
For example, in one 5th grade class, students were provided a list of historical figures to choose from for their individual projects.
Also, the Carver Library covers Black History Month in a rich selection of books that celebrate the achievements, contributions, and historical journeys of African Americans. These books were read to classes of students throughout this month and beyond.
Valentine Elementary School
Kindergarten students share virtual resources and literature included in their reading assignments during February.
First grade students are learning all about Martin Luther King Jr. through the use of books, videos, and crafts. They are also learning about Mae Jemison by reading related literature selected through Journeys curriculum. Students are reviewing the Scholastic News article: Black Inventors, Ruby Bridges biography and are engaging in Read alouds that feature Black characters.
Fourth grade students read biographies on important figures in African American history and students then create biography posters. They jigsaw their groups and share posters. They are also watching Brain Pop videos under the "Black History" category (yesterday students learned about Motown!).
Valentine 5th Grade students read a biography of a "Blacks in History". Each student must decide, develop, and construct an award to be given to this individual. Besides the award, each student must write a speech that would be given at a ceremony to honor the individual. Students give the speeches in class.
All grades read books about famous Black Americans. They watch videos and provide resources and recommendations for families at home. ELA anthologies incorporate literature about Black Americans.
Huntington Middle School
Huntington Middle School students are learning about Black History by participating in daily activities such as morning announcements read over the PA by the HMS ASB President. Announcements are then followed with a quote and brief statement about a prominent Black individual (past or present). The Announcements and quotes are shared out through Schoology, our learning management system. To reinforce this, Huntington Middle School Assistant Principal Hazlett posts the morning daily announcement and quote on Instagram. Here’s an example:
Black History Month Quotes for the week from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
"It is not enough to say 'We must not wage war.' It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but the positive affirmation of peace."
"I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education, and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits"
Additionally, one of our homeroom classes is showing the film, Hidden Figures and has brief discussions as time goes on. Eighth Grade English is also analyzing and comparing inaugural poems by Maya Angelou and Amanda Gorman.
San Marino High School
San Marino SAI students are studying Black History Month trading card sets. They are also spending time reading books online about important and famous people for Black History Month. Students are busily creating presentations to be shared and discussed this month! Here are some examples from distance learning last year: Kobe Bryant, Martin Luther King Jr., Marian Andersen
AP Literature began the academic year with Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. This is the quintessential novel on systemic racism. Students watched a video and discussed the Tulsa Race Massacre as part of the unit. Students in English 7-8, also studied "Cross", and "I, Too, Sing America" by Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes.
AP Language students are conducting student led research and activities celebrating the accomplishments of the Harlem Renaissance artists, writers, and musicians as well as the history leading to the HR.
Sophomore students are actively engaged in World Poetry from a variety of voices. Earlier this quarter they conducted student led research and presentations about genocide around the world, including genocides of black people (Rwanda, Nigeria, etc.) around the world. Students will also be reading a novel of South Africa and apartheid in the fourth quarter. Much of the semester is focused on the black struggle worldwide.
In AP Government, students have been working on their Civic Action Projects. In an effort to provide students with a better sense of what it means to engage in 'civic action' and to celebrate Black History Month, students are shown three TED-Ed Lessons as follows:
In an APUSH course, the students will be given an opportunity to read:
Students will also review the Ida B. Wells TED-Ed Lesson. Late last year, they watched the video on Harriet Tubman and in March they will have an opportunity to watch the video on Baynard Rustin.
In both classes, the teacher will begin the period on Friday, by providing the students with a chance to read:
- 9 Ways to Celebrate Black History Month in 2022
AP Government students will also be given an opportunity to read the following:
In Honors Calculus, it has been a tradition that students review Remember the Titans during Yosemite week. There is a teacher led discussion about desegregation and the importance of self-awareness related to first impressions. Students are taught to get to know others before judging them. The teacher then engages students in an activity, where they need to talk to different people in the class for 5 minutes. The next day students are paired in sets of two people that don't usually talk to each other, but should get along. The following day, students play a modified version of the newlywed game to see how much they learned about each other.
Students are randomly paired together that used to be good friends, but are now in other groups, and reconnected.
As with many subjects, approaches to teaching Black history have evolved and changed over the years. More recently, as high-profile events like the murder of George Floyd have forced society to examine systemic racism and inequality more closely in the United States, the teaching of Black history has become more contextual. Here are some resources from the Center for Racial Justice in Education that you can use at home to engage your family in celebrating and learning more about Black History Month:
Special thanks to Principal Kurtenbach, Principal Topalian, Principal Lin, Ms. Davidson, Ms. Murphy, Mr. Paccone, Ms. Ryan, Ms. Schaedel, Ms. Villalobos for their contributions to this communique.