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Black History Month celebrated systemwide at UCPS

Mikaila Zdyb, 12, a seventh grader, portrays Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. Marshall was also known for arguing before the Supreme Court and the subsequent victory in the Brown v. Board of Education which ruled that separate public schools for black and white students was unconstitutional.

The seventh-grade language arts department at Marvin Ridge Middle School took their message about the important roles African Americans played in the country's history to not only the school's hallways, but also to the community as well.

About 130 students took the lessons they learned during their study of the Civil Rights era (from about 1954 to 1964), and created a "living museum." Each student took an event or person and either dressed in costume as that person or used some sort of props to illustrate the topic.

Marvin Ridge Middle parents and the community at large were invited to come visit the living museum, which was positioned along the hallways of the school.

Christian Beach, 13, a seventh grader, portrayed Coretta Scott King. With violin in hand, Christian talked with passersby about King's life and the things she accomplished. "She was at a musical college on scholarship," he said, explaining the violin he was using as a prop.

King, an American author and civil rights activist, took up the banner of her late husband, Martin Luther King, Jr., after his 1968 assassination. "I thought it was very neat that she made Martin Luther King Day a holiday, and that she formed the Martin Luther King Center in Georgia, which I've been to many times," Christian said.

Mikaila Zdyb, 12, a seventh grader, portrayed Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. Marshall was also known for arguing before the Supreme Court and for the victory in the Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark case that established separate public schools for black and white students as unconstitutional.

"I think it was very sad the way black students were discriminated against," Mikaila said. "I'm glad that Thurgood Marshall fought for them in court."

As for dressing in costume and being part of the living museum, Mikaila said it really helped her remember the details of the lesson. "I got a lot out of this assignment," she said. "I'm a visual learner, so it helps to see what a person looks like."

Seventh-grade language arts teachers Stephanie Haring and Jan Anderson organized the living museum. "We've seen it done in different forms," Haring said. "We thought it would be a great idea and something we would want to incorporate in this year's Civil Rights unit."

There were three components to the lesson. Once students chose their topic -- either a person or an event to research -- they first wrote an essay about the topic, and then created a visual presentation, usually a poster, about that topic. The third component was to use props or clothing to present the information in the living museum.

"The students have had so much fun," Haring said. "They put a whole lot of work in this. I think you have so much more learning when you have different ways you can express your knowledge."

After the living museum, students will study the Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech and will study his beliefs. Then students will write essays about their own beliefs. "Some of those will blow you away," Haring said.

"Then at the end of the year, we ask, 'what are you going to do with those beliefs?' Then students do a huge community service project, which ranges from everything from helping at a nursing home, to helping at school or someone in their own neighborhoods, or possibly helping out at the animal shelter."

The living museum at Marvin Ridge Middle School is only one of the many ways UCPS teachers and students honored Black History Month. The following is a glimpse at how many of the UCPS schools celebrated black history month:

Benton Heights Elementary School of the Arts

We had a Black History celebration on Feb. 24, 2011, from 6:30 pm to 8 p.m. featuring Daniel D, a young violinist, and Devonne Gary, a saxophonist. Daniel D is a 2009 Apollo Theater winner, and has not only been featured on the Oprah Show, but has also performed for President Obama, Larry King and the late Michael Jackson. This year's production was called “Music Lives,” and chronicles music from the 20th century until modern day. The presentation also featured a stage play written about a family traveling through time who experiences significant events that have shaped the "culture" and the history of the African-American experience.

Syble Isbister, a computer teacher
Benton Heights Elementary School of the Arts

Kensington Elementary School

We had "A Sign of the Times," a performing ensemble from Charlotte, come to our school on Feb. 24, 2011, and perform for our students. The group did a presentation on music and the various types of music that came from Africa. The group is headed by Tyrone Jefferson who performed with James Brown in his band. They performed various styles of music - from spirituals to rap.

Rachel Clarke, Ed.D.
Principal, Kensington Elementar

Marvin Elementary School

First grade read and discussed many books related to Black History. One of the children's favorite books was "Under the Quilt of Night." After reading and discussing it, the children made paper quilts to represent the ones that were hung outside the houses where the runaway slaves were safe.

Debora Herring, a first-grade teacher
Marvin Elementary School

My second graders studied poetry in reading. I pulled out some poetry books by African American authors and used my read-aloud time to read various poems and discuss the poems with my kids.

Kristin Reich, a second-grade teacher
Marvin Elementary


Poplin Elementary School

Students have been researching famous African Americans and have created museum displays to show what they have learned. Other students will tour the displays on Monday, Feb. 28, 2011. Also on Wednesday, March 2, 2011, we will have author Carole Boston Weatherford visiting in the media center. Weatherford, a New York Times best-selling author, will conduct two programs for students. One program will be a poetry workshop, the other program will be VROOM: Verbs are Engines.

Beth Medlin, Media Coordinator
Poplin Elementary

Porter Ridge Middle School

Too often, today's generation overlooks or is removed from the reality of integration efforts that occurred right here at the local level and we felt it tantamount that we attempt to address this gap. The Living History Speakers segment is intended to personalize the impact of the Black History in Union County. Speakers were identified who directly participated in activities and roles that helped to overcome segregation. Video was used as a medium for the first person account of their experience. This year's speakers are Phil (PE) Bazemore, the first black City Councilman for the City of Monroe, and Jeanette Sherrod, the first black Agricultural Extension Agent in Union County.

Henry Chandler, a teacher
Porter Ridge Middle

Sun Valley Middle School
My students have been hard at work creating African Storybooks for children. Some of them are amazing! Through the end of Black History Month, my students had their work displayed at the Indian Trail Public Library as a part of their Black History Month festivities. They were even asked to read their books to the children on the weekends. The students also chose to focus not on past legends, but on up-and-coming stars -- my African American students. Each week, several of my students shared their family history with the class and their future dreams. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "We have only to look at those right in front of our eyes to see the heroes of tomorrow."

Jody Patrick Legare, M.Ed Social Sciences
7th Social Studies, Sun Valley Middle School

I delegated every Friday in February to Black History. As a class, we explored the black history timeline on Biography.com using the Smartboard. Students chose at least eight important historical events in black history and wrote them down. Students then created "fortune telling timelines" using the information gathered. Students watched a short documentary on Martin Luther King, and listened to his speech, "I have a dream." The students wrote their own "I have a dream" speech and shared them with the class. We ended the month with students watching a 15-minute segment from the United Streaming video called "The Playing Field," which touches on everything from slavery, to civil rights, to baseball. After watching the video, students created rap songs that described and honored the lives of historic Black figures. These were then shared with the class.

Theryne Medlin, a seventh-grade Social Studies teacher
Sun Valley Middle School

Walter Bickett Education Center

Our class read books about black American heroes and then made life-size cut-outs, painted and decorated to resemble students holding pictures of their favorite black American heroes.

Vickie Hoin, teacher
Walter Bickett Education Center

The last week in February we read the book "Black All Around" and "Come On Rain!" The second book was also available on CD in the listening center all week long. We talked about the Black History lunch we had on February 25th. A new puzzle of President Obama was made available in the manipulative center, and we talked about what it represents.

Jennifer Mao, pre-K teacher
Walter Bickett Education Center

We went over a black history fact during circle time, and showed a picture to reflect the lesson. We learned the Black National Anthem and sang it during circle time. We hung pictures in our classroom that represented black national leaders.

Teryn Nails, teacher
Walter Bickett Education Center

We read a story about the legend of Valentine's Day. It incorporates the story of MLK Jr. I had other read-aloud stories of famous black Americans that were read and discussed. These include Willma Rouldolph Pele, The King of Soccer; NASA astronaut Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to travel in space, and NASA astronaut Ron McNair, one of seven crewmembers killed in the 1986 explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. We also talked about president Obama when we learned about President's Day. I had various posters and pictures to show the students, too.

Michelle Tuttle, a teacher
Walter Bickett Education Center

Waxhaw Elementary School

On Feb. 21, 2011, Kevin Brown visited our school to demonstrate the West African drums that he had made for our school as part of the Arts Council Grant that we received.

Cheryl L. Lawrence, principal
Waxhaw Elementary


Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Feb 24, 2011 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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