“Family” was the chosen theme for Black History Month at West End Elementary (WEE), and like a family, faculty, students, and staff all played a role in the curriculum, creativity, and presentation that has gone into the significant month-long celebration.
“What you do with your life is not only a reflection on you, but on your family and all of those institutions that have helped to make you who you are.” These wise words were uttered by African American baseball legend, Hank Aaron, during a commencement speech at Marquette University in 2012. The quote maintains its influence as it banners the top of a third grade classroom door at West End Elementary.
Teachers at WEE were given the opportunity to decorate their classroom doors in honor of BHM, and the results were highly creative and very informative. Some classes were inspired by specific prominent African Americans throughout history, while others took an approach that addressed the inclusive importance of diversity and love.
WEE Principal, Dr. Dennis Drummond, said the Door Decorating Contest was a great way to get teachers and students involved as a team. “The students were able to showcase what they’d learned by doing some of the report writing, while others created their own quotes and added their own artwork,” he explained.
Dr. Drummond said that there were a total of 15 participating teachers, some of whom took the project on as a team. Second grade teachers Ellie Crews and Emily Scoggins combined their side-by-side doors to create a “family tree” theme where they had students’ photos portrayed as “seeds” that blossomed within the wide canopy of the tree, into fruit. Above several photos of historical African Americans, a decorated sign read, “Because of them, we can grow together.”
The Door Decoration Contest is just one component of WEE’s BHM celebration and awareness. Each day for the month of February, a student has presented a “Black History Moment” on WEE TV (broadcasted live each day), honoring a different influential African American. Some figures included Ruby Bridges, Langston Hughes, John Lewis, and Amanda Gorman. “We’ve also invited guest speakers to come in virtually to share information with us,” Dr. Drummond added. Special guests have included Dr. Sylvia Washington, a pediatrician with Floyd Primary Care and Reverend Carey Ingram of Lovejoy Missionary Baptist Church in Rome.
WEE Media Specialist, Brenda Boyd, coordinated virtual read-aloud events for the WEE website so that each student and each classroom has the opportunity to hear more than a dozen different books read aloud, all of which are informative of or inspired by BHM. Some of the books are read by their authors, like “I am Enough,” by Grace Byers, while others are read by famous African American actors, like Angela Bassett or Caleb McLaughlin (Stranger Things).
Boyd had her work cut out for her in the media center when she decided to display WEE’s bountiful collection of books that either highlight the Civil Rights Movement or are informative of famous African Americans. The displayed books covered every single shelf and stood tall on each table. “I think we’re lucky in that aspect, in that we do have a lot of resources for the students,” Boyd said.
All creative endeavors and activities for the month will culminate into a BHM program. “It’s a tradition that we always have a Black History Month program,” Dr. Drummond explained. “We will be doing the program virtually, and it’s going to feature our third graders. They have practiced songs and speaking parts, and we’ll be spotlighting our essay and poster contests as well.” A schoolwide viewing of the program will be held on Friday, March 5.
Dr. Drummond stressed the importance of having both in-person and virtual options to take part in BHM, as there are 73 WEE students that are learning exclusively online right now. “They’re watching the morning news virtually, they’re able to access those virtual books, and they are also able to be a part of the program that Dr. Samuel Simon (WEE music director) is putting together.”
Dr. Drummond said the Door Decorating Contest will be scored at the end of this week, and he will provide lunch for all participants on Friday. “It’s really meant to be informative and fun,” he said. “I’m just really proud of our teachers and students; they always go above and beyond my expectations.”