Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson is recognized as the originator of Negro History Week, which was first celebrated in 1926 during the second week of February which coincides with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford expanded the week to the entire month of February because he wanted the United States to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."
Celebrating Black History Month not only gives us the opportunity to honor the accomplishments of many black Americans, but it also creates awareness of all people.
Here is a glimpse into how The Woods celebrated during the month of February.
1st Grade studied Martin Luther King Jr. and the students created their own "I Have a Dream" speech with their moms on Mothers Visiting Day. The students put together three small reader books focusing on Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and George Washington Carver. In these books, the students learned about courage and standing up for what is right.
1st Grade also studied Ruby Neil Bridges and Olympic Champion Wilma Rudolph using the Scholastic News Readers.
We are currently engaged in a mini author study on Ezra Jack Keats who wrote many stories with African American characters. We have read A Snowy Day, Peter's Chair, and Whistle For Willie.
During the month of February, the 2nd Grade studied famous African Americans that played an important role in our country's history. We began our month learning about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King was a hero whose work made an indelible impact on our country. We read books and researched facts about Dr. King’s accomplishments. We also learned about Benjamin Banneker. Benjamin Banneker taught himself many things as a young boy. He studied the sky at night to learn about the stars and became a writer and a scientist. George Washington hired Benjamin Banneker to map out the city of Washington, D.C. The students enjoyed reading about Benjamin Banneker in our Social Studies book and discussing his role with George Washington.
We also studied Harriet Tubman who was born into slavery but escaped. Students were very interested in how the safe houses on the Underground Railroad worked. We completed a timeline and sequenced all the important events or accomplishments in Tubman’s life. Students also studied the map of the Underground Railroad and discussed how Tubman led slaves to freedom. At the end of our Black History Month unit, we discussed the significant impact these men and women had on our nation's history.
In 3rd Grade, we have completed novel studies on Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglass. On Fathers Visiting Day, we worked with our dads to create flip books about Jackie Robinson using a several page research report that the children wrote independently. We are making a freedom quilt on the Civil Rights Movement and a timeline based on Civil Rights events. The students are also completing math and language task cards on Civil Rights events.
4th Grade completed several activities to celebrate Black History Month. The students read short selections from Little Leaders Bold Women in Black History, highlighted important details, identified keywords and used their notes to create a WordArt. In pairs, children chose a picture book about an African American to read, wrote summaries, and shared the summaries with the class. Then they chose a different picture book, recorded important details, facts, character traits and used their notes to create a mobile about the book.
Additionally, the teachers read several books aloud to the entire class.
On February 1st, to launch the beginning of Black History Month, and to celebrate the spectacular author, Langston Hughes on his birthday, 5th Grade read “Mother to a Son,” on Mothers Visiting Day! Every day that followed, students were introduced to an outstanding African American, as part of their morning meeting. To continue the celebration of Black History Month, students completed Biography Stamp Book Reports, while dressing in character and teaching their peers about: Rosa Parks, Colin Powell, Willie Mays, Misty Copeland, Mohammed Ali, and many other influential people, featured in the Stamp Projects, who have paved the way for us as we celebrate Black History Month. It was a joy and an honor to learn about and acknowledge so many who have contributed so much to our nation.
During the month of February, 7th Grade explores colonial America and the impact of the beginnings of slavery on the nation. The focus is on the cultural influence of African heritage (music, religion, language, etc.) on the United States, both past and present. The source of information is through Discovery Education (Chapter 2).
Each Black History Month, 8th Grade students study the legacies of Reconstruction on the path forward to Civil Rights. This is a compilation of Discovery Education text (Chapter 10) as well as working with Ms. Dodge in Language Arts reading To Kill a Mockingbird. The discussion goes further to incorporate Civil Rights in today's society.
In Art classes, the 3rd Grade created "The Humble Quilt." They looked specifically at quilts and quilt patterns as a means of secret communication on the Underground Railroad. They designed and created a ceramic, American Flag, using the traditional quilt patterns of the time, signaling escape, help, and safety. Through this art process they paid a permanent tribute to those who fought for freedom.
Montessori Preschool students enjoyed African-American spirituals during Music classes:
There's a Little Wheel A'Turnin'
Somebody's Knockin' on Your Door (adding "knocking patterns" on different kinds of drums)
Train is A'Comin' (explored the call-response form and sang the song while making a "train" - a follow-the-leader frame drum activity)
The 3rd Grade Music classes explored a unit of African-American song games and songs from the Underground Railroad:
The Drinking Gourd
Wade in the Water
Oh Watch the Stars
All Around the Brickyard
Down in the Valley Two by Two
Little Johnny Brown
During Guidance, the Montessori Lunchers read the book My Brother Martin, A Sister Remembers by Christine King Farris and discussed the story periodically as the pages turned. They also completed celebrated the colors of all people in an activity where the words, "I Have a Dream," were at the top of a paper with a black line outline of a person. Then they colored the features of a person using many different crayon colors to illustrate the rainbow of colors among all people.
The 2nd Grade Guidance classes read the book All the Colors We Are, The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color and discussed tiny grains of coloring in our skin, called melanin, as well as the role of our ancestors and the presence of sunshine to make everyone special and different.