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Kindness is the key as Hampton students celebrate Black History Month

| Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, 2:27 p.m.
Caroline Sullivan, Aidan Casey and Timmy Madden, third graders at Wyland Elementary, help create a large fabric and paper quilt to commemorate the novel 'Tar Beach,' written by an African-American author named Faith Ringgold as a way to celebrate Black History Month.
Caroline Sullivan, Aidan Casey and Timmy Madden, third graders at Wyland Elementary, help create a large fabric and paper quilt to commemorate the novel 'Tar Beach,' written by an African-American author named Faith Ringgold as a way to celebrate Black History Month.

Diversity, kindness and dignity are being emphasized in February throughout the Hampton Township School District, as well as activities to help celebrate Black History Month.

Several administrators and teachers are offering projects or lessons which focus on being respectful and kind to one another as well as themselves. These projects also help promote diversity, a key element in celebrating Black History Month.

A favorite project of Wyland Elementary third-grade art teacher Kate Powell is the creation of a large fabric and paper quilt inspired by the children's novel “Tar Beach,” written by African-American artist Faith Ringgold.

The book centers around a young girl who lives in the city but dreams she can fly and about the places she would go. The character made quilts that demonstrated her dreams for herself and for the world, said Powell.

In turn, Powell had her students each create a scene of dreams they had on a fabric square, ranging from owning a pet turtle to world peace and ending hunger, she said. They were also told to make self portraits and buildings to “fly over,” much like the quilts in Ringgold's book.

The students glued these pieces together, creating a large quilt of art, Powell said.

An estimated 90 students from her art classes contributed to the approximately 30-foot-by-8-foot quilt, which will hang in the third-grade hallway throughout the month, she said.

“I think they really understood the idea each one of us is capable of actions in making it a better world,” said Powell.

Another art teacher, Kelly Koble at Central Elementary, is also exploring the story of “Tar Beach” for her second-grade art classes.

After reading and discussing the book, she had her students also draw and write about their dreams.

Koble said her students identified with the book's character who is also 8 years old, like many of them. Koble stresses that she tries to incorporate lessons celebrating differences throughout the year, not just during Black History Month.

“I really try to have a diverse curriculum,” Koble said.

Middle school teacher Catherine Close is teaching a black history unit on celebrating cultural differences to her seventh-grade English classes.

At the high school, the counselors are promoting Random Acts of Kindness throughout the month, meeting with each grade level to review 12 key concepts relevant to kindness, dignity, and respect, according to Shari Berg, public relations consultant for the district.

Additionally, students will view inspirational videos and activities during Random Acts of Kindness Week, Feb. 13 to 17, that emulate empathy and acceptance and create an environment of kindness and gratitude, she said.

The middle school is also participating in the Random Acts of Kindness week, which helps supports the district's Dignity and Respect campaign for this year. Each day the school guidance counselors came up with ideas on how students could be kind at school and at home, such as compliment someone in the hallway on Monday and thank an adult for something on Thursday.

Natalie Beneviat is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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