Black History Month taking new meaning following year of hardships

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Josh Campbell

Black History Month celebrates the culture and accomplishments of African Americans. In Coppell ISD, displays, lessons and activities are planned throughout the month to commemorate the occasion based on students’ grade level.

Shreya Beldona, Executive enterprise editor

Black History Month, often not included in course curriculums, has been around for almost 100 years. Coppell ISD uses multiple tactics at different grade levels to celebrate this historic month. 

At the elementary level, perhaps the biggest reason for the implementation of Black History Month is early exposure to diversity and inclusion. 

“When more kids are exposed to diversity and inclusion at an early age, that [becomes] the norm to them,” Canyon Ranch Elementary kindergarten teacher Arian Brown said. “They don’t see African American history in college and are like, well, we never talked about this. Starting at an early age is what helps create and maintain diversity with learners.”

Since elementary age is typically one of the first interactions students have with Black History Month, many activities cover surface-level topics. However, surface-level exploration allows for an easy-to-understand reasoning behind celebrating Black History Month.

“It really starts when you start talking about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Brown said. “You’re telling [your students] people of different races were not able to be in the same classroom, and I wouldn’t have been able to be your teacher, and we wouldn’t have been able to play together. Talking about how it used to be lets them know that there was some separation in the process.”

Austin Elementary has library and hallway displays and created a website for third, fourth and fifth graders to research prominent Black figures. Richard J. Lee Elementary is featuring a Black figure in its daily morning broadcast throughout the month. Cottonwood Creek Elementary made a Periodic Table of Black History and a mural of Amanda Gorman, who delivered a memorable poem during the 2021 Inauguration of President Joe Biden. For more information regarding what CISD is doing for Black History Month, check out this link from CISD. 

As students progress to middle school, the activities are more creative, engaging and in-depth. 

At Coppell Middle School East, eighth grade GT U.S. history and pre-AP history teacher Anthony Smith uses daily presentations about icons, uncovering the history behind common phenomena, such as jazz, and answering questions students have about African American icons. 

You’re telling [your students] people of different races were not able to be in the same classroom, and I wouldn’t have been able to be your teacher, and we wouldn’t have been able to play together. Talking about how it used to be lets them know that there was some separation in the process”

— Canyon Ranch Elementary kindergarten teacher Arian Brown

In one of Smith’s favorite activities, coined the Dine and Dash, students study a historical figure and then explain their person to other students in a style similar to speed dating. Through this activity, students can cover topics relating to their individual’s past, accomplishments, hopes for the future and how they would like to see change. 

Though following the state-mandated Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and preparing for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test may not factor in lessons pertaining to Black history, Smith believes that Black history and U.S. history should be one and the same. 

“You want to cover something passionately and you might have a favorite lesson that you have to discard, but at the end of the day in eighth grade, social studies is assessed and evaluated based on how our students perform on the STAAR tests,” Smith said. “[But], I think [there has] been more of a push with Coppell ISD for making sure that we’re adding involvement from all contributors in our society. It’s been a switch with the state of Texas to kind of give us that freedom to do so.” 

Coppell High School plans to integrate Black History Month lessons into the curriculum for each class. 

CHS U.S. history Diane de Waal, digital learning coach Amanda Mask and CHS librarians also created mini-lessons based on TEKS regarding the African American Ethnic Studies course. 

The CHS library is making posters for all the social studies classrooms which feature Black history icons. They also are doing a book giveaway of books from Black authors, and they have compiled a list of books and e-books from Black authors. CHS librarian Deb Zeman has made a Wakelet available to all CHS teachers filled with resources.  

At Victory Place @ Coppell, students are interacting with self-made presentations in an activity known as the Black History Virtual Gallery Walk. 

Despite the variety of activities and methods to approach Black History Month, the goal remains the same: to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of notable Black figures in American history. 

“What our society knows and what our students know is what we’ve told them about Black history and some of that is not true and very discriminative,” CHS Principal Laura Springer said. “What I want to make sure we are doing is looking at [Black] people in history just like we would the white people that we think this country was founded on.”

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