- Ewing Township Board of Education
2021 Black History Month in the Ewing Public Schools!
Black History Month is the annual celebration of achievements and contributions of African-Americans and a time to recognize and celebrate their central and significant role in United States history.
President Gerald Ford was the first president to officially recognize Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Since 1976, every American president has designated February as Black History Month and has endorsed a specific theme. The theme for 2021 is “Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity” which explores the African diaspora, and the spread of Black families across the United States.
The Ewing Public Schools embraces the diversity of our school community every day, but in February, we take the time to join the nation in honoring and celebrating Black History Month.
Let’s take a tour of some special events and activities around the district, beginning at Ewing High School, where English teacher Martine McGrath, who teaches an African-American History and Culture course challenged student to create proposals to add displays and exhibits to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.
Alex Minter, who teaches the Concert Choir course at Ewing High School, had students aspect to honor and describe Black composers, classical and contemporary musicians who have impacted their lives.
Ewing High School English and Creative Writing Teacher Megan Soltysik had her students create tribute poems to the Student Council’s Black History Month Arts Festival. Students were asked to select and research a Black artist that they wanted to feature for their writing assignment. They could select any kind of artist: musicians, dancer, singer, painter, sculptor, poet, actor, film maker, graphic artist, comedian, etc.
Students in Mr. Dalessio’s Physical Education class composed a PowerPoint slide presentation highlighting one iconic black athlete, their work as an activist and created a picture collage of that individual.
Before the stoves were ignited in the Ewing High School Culinary Arts classroom during the month of February, teacher John Kocubinski, Educator of the Year at EHS, began every class by showcasing an African American Chef - Restaurateur, both past and present, who broke barriers by achieving firsts in the competitive world of food service. Featured chefs’ included: Chef Mariya Russell who was the first Black women to earn a Michelin Star in 2020; Chef Marcus Samuelsson who received a received a three-star rating from The New York Times at 25 years old, the youngest person to receive such an accolade at the time, for his food at the high-end Scandinavian restaurant Aquavit; Chef Leah Chase also known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine, was the executive chef and co-owner of the Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in New Orleans, one of the most historic restaurants in America; Chef Bryant Terry a James Beard Award-winning chef and author known for advocating for a more healthy and sustainable food system; and Chef Carla Hall an American chef, television personality and former model. She appeared in the fifth and eighth seasons of Top Chef, Bravo's cooking competition show.
Over in the Science wing of Ewing High School teachers Peter Rinaldi and Jessica Bohnenberger threw ideas around on how to include Black History in their Environmental Science courses. They decided they would have their students research Black scientists and have the students create a Facebook profile for Famous Black Scientists by highlighting their accomplishments. Students included information about the scientist of their choice as well as details about the scientist's contributions to their field. The hope was to have students find this research to be engaging and interesting and to see how diverse the field of science has been throughout history.
In Ms. Sohelli Arassi’s French class, she had students make a Google slide presentation about a famous Black American French speaking country person.
ASYSST provided daily Black history facts on their google classroom page about individuals and events that shaped the trajectory of our community, nation and world. Several facts were written by local community representatives and staff who were noted for their contributions. ASYSST also hosted a movie night each Friday during the month of February.
The culminating activity for Black History Month at Ewing High School was the Student Council Black History Month Arts Festival held the last week in February.
Fisher Middle School took Black History Month to Jam Board!
Mrs. Freeman, the Dean of Students at Fisher, used her Google Classroom to spread encouragement and knowledge. It's also a space for FMS students to connect with one another. During the month of February, Mrs. Freeman shared little-known Black History Month Facts and presented questions and or prompts to get the student population engaged in discussions about Black History Month.
Several teachers even incorporated the facts within their lessons. Ms. Fitzgerald, 6th grade social studies teacher often presented her class with questions about the unknown facts via Jam Board. The students were then directed to visit Mrs. Freeman's Google Class to learn about the unknown facts. They then shared their answers to a Jam Board, a digital platform that allowed all students to post their work on a common whiteboard. The posting then led to interactive discussions about the unknown facts.
Fisher Middle School also hosted a schoolwide event for Black History Month. All students had the opportunity to submit work about Black history and culture for a showcase. Students submitted various forms of work including artwork, poetry, and mixed media to highlight individuals who made modern and historic impacts.
This all culminated in a website where Fisher students' creative work was displayed as part of the FMS Black History Month initiative. A special thanks to all the students who contributed to the showcase!
Over at Antheil Elementary School Mrs. Hoffman's second grade virtual class created graphic organizers after researching famous African Americans.
Ms. Tirrell's second grade in-person class researched a famous and influential African-American. Using multiple resources, students wrote biographies on the person they selected.
As part of the classroom family's celebration of Black History Month, Ms. Porreca's class (students from both Antheil and Parkway) listened to Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech and discussed the message behind that speech as well as the importance of diversity. Students then wrote their own version of the "I Have a Dream" speech describing the dreams they have for our nation; emphasizing that our words have power. Ms. Porreca’s students then recorded these speeches using Flipgrid as part of an assignment in Canvas. Ms. Porreca shared their beautifully recorded speeches with the whole class and they were enjoyed by all!
At Lore School, there were many ways students celebrated Black History Month.
In February, the entire student body, including in-person and virtual students, participated in a virtual assembly about the Civil Rights Movement, performed by the group Hip Hop Fundamentals. The performers connected the fight for freedom during the Civil Rights Movement to the freedom of expression shared through hip hop dance and music. Students listened to excerpts from Dr. King's I Have a Dream Speech and Letters from Birmingham Jail, learned about activists such as Rosa Parks and Ruby Bridges, and danced to show the nonviolent actions of marching, boycotting, writing letters, and showing love and unity.
Students at Lore School celebrated and honored Black History Month by learning about amazing, influential African-Americans such as Booker T. Washington, Thurgood Marshall, Nikki Giovanni, and Amanda Gorman. Students in the early grades listened to stories and watched videos to learn about Black heroes, students in grades 2 and 3 read nonfiction information and wrote reports and students in grades 4 and 5 read texts and watched videos, conducting research across multiple sources to learn about powerful, positive African American leaders.
Two displays were created in the school building, the Periodic Table of Black Excellence and Lift Every Voice. On each display, students were introduced to powerful Black and African Americans who had a positive impact on American history or who still positively influence our lives today.
Black History Month 2021 at Parkway Elementary School featured 4th and 5th grade students enjoying a virtual assembly by Mr. Michael Eaddy about E.D. Nixon, the unsung hero of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Students in grades 3rd through 5th were charged to submit a written or oral response to the statement, “What Black History Month Means to Me”. From the submissions, students were chosen to share their sentiments during morning announcements either through video recording or in-person. In the media center the students read a variety of African American biographies.
In the main hallway was a display of books, dolls, pictures and pieces of art featuring African Americans. On Mondays the student were greeted (via video) by members of the Parkway Panther Percussion Ensemble on Djimbe drums and on Fridays a different YouTube video of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” was played as part of the morning announcements.