STRATFORD—From classroom activities and research projects to creative videos and civil rights music, students at St. Mark School in Stratford are celebrating Black History Month and paying tribute to influential Black Americans throughout history.
The school has been recognizing Black American achievements and milestones that have shaped our nation by incorporating a variety of lessons in Science, English Language Arts, Music and Social Studies classes and through the school’s Social Emotional Learning program.
Second-graders are researching several distinguished historical figures such as Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, Ruby Bridges and Frederick Douglass, and sharing their findings with classmates.
Second grade teacher Stacey Zenowich comments, “Black History Month aims to inspire lifelong learning about the history, voices and experiences of Black Americans. The lessons are a powerful education of our past, an opportunity to appreciate the contributions of the present, and a chance to build an even more hopeful future.”
Middle School lessons included learning about poets such as Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou and Amanda Gorman and watching films that portray obstacles of social injustices of racism and genderism.
English Language Arts teacher Danielle Veith shares, “I believe it is my responsibility to highlight stories and voices that have been previously overlooked or silenced and to uplift those who have been most marginalized by our society. I emphasize to my students that as a white woman, I will never truly have a full understanding of the experiences of people of color.”
According to Veith, she and her students will listen, learn and discuss these stories together, and challenge one another to both envision and carry out a better future than the histories we leave behind us.
Middle school science lessons included viewing the movie Hidden Figures, a story of three Black women scientists working at NASA in the early 1960’s who were instrumental in launching manned space flight.
Science teacher Lorie Boveroux remarks, “The film illustrates their triumph and shows how they used their God-given talents to better humanity and break down gender and racial barriers.”
Middle School students also learned about how music was influential in promoting the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s.
Eighth-grader Olivia Szczerba shares, “Music has always been able to deliver powerful messages and show deep emotions, so the perfect time to sing would definitely be during a civil rights movement. Singing a song while protesting would be a way to come together with others, let go of anger and fear, as well as make a stand.”
“At St. Mark School, we want our students to see the value in diversity and the benefits of inclusion,” adds Principal Melissa Warner. “We aim to foster a genuine sense of empathy and compassion.”
According to Warner, the school-wide Social Emotional Learning program provides an additional avenue to highlight the school’s ongoing commitment to fostering dignity and respect for all people, in celebration of Black History Month.
Warner concludes, “In the words of Nelson Mandela, education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”