Hampton students explore black history
Black History was observed and celebrated this February among students and staff at Hampton Township School District, through books, music, art and even technology.
Several educational projects and activities were held throughout the schools and different classes, including the libraries.
For example, Beth Casey, library media specialist at Central Elementary, said her second-graders studied “quilt codes” and the Underground Railroad using the books “The Patchwork Path” and “Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt” as historical fiction texts.
The codes were used in quilts to send secret messages by slaves. The students at Central used what they learned about these codes and applied the idea with their class Bee-Bots to follow the codes, Casey said. Bee-Bots are educational robotics classroom tools used at Hampton.
Casey’s students shared what they learned, including second-grader Jillian Alexander, who “was surprised at how the slaves used coded messages through the quilts.”
Fellow student Adeline Keller added, “it was really fun to code the BeeBots and put the quilt codes in order.”
“The books were interesting and made me really curious to learn more,” Max Andrzejewski said.
Casey said this also connected to a project in teacher Kelly Koble’s art class where students created artwork inspired by Faith Ringgold’s book and quilt, “Tar Beach.” Ringgold is an African American quilting artist as well as a children’s book author and illustrator, Casey said.
Also, their third-grade classes learned about the history of jazz music, and the contributions of musician Duke Ellington, including reading and discussing a biography of Ellington in the library, completing research, and creating a slideshow to present their research, she said.
Mary Fitzpatrick, enrichment facilitator at Central Elementary, worked with enrichment students in third grade on black history projects.
She read a combination of historical fiction stories and biographies to learn about slavery and the Underground Railroad.
Fitzpatrick said the books are historically accurate but still age-appropriate.
“Most of the children have some idea about slavery, but this is usually the first time they are learning specific information about the time period, including the areas where slavery was legal in the United States, how slaves were treated, and how they attempted to escape using the Underground Railroad. Using historical fiction as a means of learning this information allows the students to empathize with the struggles of slaves and the risks taken to escape from slavery,” Fitzpatrick said.
This was insightful for many students, including Isaiah Ware.
“I think it’s interesting to learn about slavery because I didn’t know how hard times were back then,” said Ware, 9.
Richard Ma, 9, also commented on learning “how cruel slavery was and getting a deeper understanding of the lives of slaves.”
Students were then asked to select a biography of a famous escaped slave, such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, or Booker T. Washington, after which they were to write a report about the person’s life and accomplishments and create an illustration, Fitzpatrick said.
“The children learn important factual information, but we also focus on greater themes of humanity as well — the importance of freedom, the indomitable human spirit, and how darkness and hatred can be overcome by courage and kindness,” said Fitzpatrick.
Esme Farmakis took away that she discovered how others risked getting in trouble for other people’s freedom.
“Helping others is something we all should do,” said Farmakis, 9.
Additionally, Diane Fierle, media specialist at Hampton Middle School, said a cadre of 10 students from the Library MVP Club and Kindness Committees read “The Skin I’m In” by Sharon Flake and were to attend her author presentation and a recent “book battle” at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit.
And both the seventh-grade Talbot Readers Book Club and some faculty and parents read “Brown Girl Dreaming,” a biography on Jacqueline Woodson, where they put together a reflection video to be shared with faculty and parents attending the Parent/Teacher Book Club last week at the library, Fierle said.
Shanna Struble’s second-grade class in Central researched an African American of their choice, and then created a collage with pictures and facts about their person to share with their parents through Seesaw, a school networking application on their iPads.
Also, Kelly Emmett’s 10th-grade honors English class students just finished the novel “Things Fall Apart” by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, which is an exploration of the Nigerian culture from the view of a Nigerian author.