Honoring Black History Month

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As a school, Parker is deeply committed to fostering an educational environment that celebrates diversity, honors differences, and works tirelessly to ensure that minority voices are heard, represented, and included in our classrooms. This work is ongoing and ever-growing as we continuously learn more and hone our practices with our students. 
Our commitment to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion is steadfast and year-long. One example of this can be found in our Kindergarten class, where Leigh Augustine developed an open-ended identity theme that is woven into many of her projects and has her 5-and-6-year-olds examining the physical and emotional traits that contribute to forming each unique individual. Another example is seen in Claire Sherwood’s year-long dedication to studying black artists at all grade levels in honor of her mentor, David Driskell, who died this past April from coronavirus. 

In addition to our ongoing dedication to DEI principles, it is also necessary and appropriate that we seize upon recognized opportunities to pay tribute to minorities who historically struggle with adversity in our country. As such, we honor and celebrate Black History Month in February as an opportunity to share, celebrate, and understand the impact of black heritage and culture while also learning more about the effects of racism and how to challenge negative stereotypes. This work necessarily looks different at each grade level, depending on maturity and comprehension, but it is something that every Parker student will have exposure to, in one way or another. Here are just a few examples of how we are commemorating Black History Month here at Parker.

Parker 1-2s are honoring Black History Month by talking about the topic of black excellence. Students read the book Salt in His Shoes, the inspiring story of Michael Jordon, and reflected on the struggles he overcame on his way to becoming one of the best basketball players ever. The class is also working to create a story quilt, inspired by Faith Ringgold’s book Tar Beach, which portrays the truth about the injustices that confront people of color. The book also presents the idea that hopes and dreams still exist in the face of injustice. Lynn is now challenging her students to think about what their dreams of freedom are for our world. The students will each create an individual watercolor “quilt” square, and the squares will be put together to form a quilt portraying their class dreams for fighting injustice.

Parker PreK students are approaching Black History Month by reading books that help them to examine the power of their actions and words. So far, they have read Speak UpLast Stop on Market StreetAll Are Welcome, and Our Class is a Family as well as Each Kindness. With the guidance of their teacher, Michele, students talk about kindness, respect, and helping each other. This is part of an ongoing conversation in PreK this year, as they are very invested in getting along with each other and studying the impact of their words and actions.
Middle school 5th grade math students began reading Women Who Count: Honoring African American Women Mathematicians this week. This book introduces students to diverse women, pioneers of the past and present, whose important contributions have influenced and shaped the world of mathematics and beyond. Inspired by the book, the class moved into meaningful explorations of a variety of mathematical concepts, eventually undertaking different math challenges and learning tasks. Going forward after break, middle school math students will launch into an exploration of African American architects. Students will learn about buildings designed by famous African American architects, and the significance of their achievements considering the historic periods during which they worked. Students will eventually design a floor plan layout of a building of their choice, and learn and demonstrate knowledge of mathematical concepts through their creations.

This week, students in our 3-4 class were privileged to participate in a Zoom presentation with Parker parent who, along with her daughter (and Parker 3rd grader), spoke with the class about Black Puerto Rican history and culture. They also led the class in a Bomba dance demonstration, showcasing this traditional dance and music of Puerto Rico. The 3-4 students have also been inspired to produce a puppet show for Read Across America Day that will take on themes of racial justice, inequality, and honor Black History Month. Finally, each 3-4 student is researching someone in the African American or black community that has positively changed the world. They will eventually create illustrations based on the “Black Heritage” stamp series and include significant facts about their individuals.