February is Black History Month and here at Neck of the Woods we feel it is incredibly important to share this celebration with our students.

We believe it is a just and equitable stance to recognize the societal issues that cause discrimination, and hope that teaching about those issues will grow a kinder, stronger, more connected community and future (NOW handbook).

Each day in February, we set aside time during our snack to celebrate and honor inspirational Africans and African-Americans who have helped shape the course of history.

Our K-6th graders kicked off our first conversation about Black History in America, BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color), racism and anti-racism. They gave their perspectives on what they have witnessed in school, community, Vermont, and the national news. They listened to one another carefully and asked thoughtful questions. After going through a timeline of Black History, many of us were surprised to see the visual representation of how recently certain racially-motivated crimes took place. We observed how racism still occurs today in 2021 and began the conversation of what we can do to be actively anti-racist. We came up with ideas like: educate ourselves and others, learn through reading, confront racism when we see it, and stick up for what is right and just. This can be a hard conversation to have with children, but it is essential to raising socially conscious, empathetic, and anti-racist adults.

Throughout the month we talked about early West African civilizations and contemporary artists like Bob Marley and Alicia Keys.
It is important that the children were leading the dialogue from their perspective and view of the world. They were able to draw from their own experiences of kindness and empathy--even here in rural Vermont where they may not have as much experience with racial diversity as some others--and see the importance of honoring all human beings as they are.

At NOW, we encourage children to know their feelings, and take a moment to hear how others feel and what we each need to be happy, healthy, and whole human beings. In February, this extended beyond our classrooms as we explored the experiences of strangers and historical figures. It is our belief that connecting the personal to the wider world gives children tools for understanding differences and building empathy as adults.