Black History Month Celebrated Districtwide

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Black History Month Celebrated Districtwide
Black History Month at Hansen ES

For the past four years the Olympia School District has kicked off Black History Month with a proclamation signed by the OSD Board of Directors recognizing the first week of February as Black Lives Matter at School Week. Many district schools carry this focus throughout the school year.


“Black History Month is a month-long observance that provides an opportunity to go above and beyond our traditional approaches for confronting and addressing racism that still persists, alongside recognizing Black excellence from the past and present,” said OSD Chief Academic Officer Hannah Gbenro.


Libraries throughout the district were ready for Black History Month with books related to the 13 Black Lives Matter at School principles: Restorative Justice, Empathy, Loving Engagement, Diversity, Globalism, Queer Affirming, Trans Affirming, Collective Value, Intergenerational, Black Families, Black Villages, Unapologetically Black and Black Women. These books will remain in the libraries for use year-round.


Classrooms completed grade-level appropriate projects focused on the Black Lives Matter at School themes and discussed how to apply the lessons in their daily lives.


Many elementary students completed projects inspired by the book “Milo’s Museum” by Zetta Elliott. In the story, the main character visits a museum and is disappointed to find that her community is not represented. She responds by creating her own museum to display things that are important to her and accurately represent her community.


Centennial students explore belonging, justice, and systemic problems

At Centennial Elementary School, students in Olivia McDaniel’s third grade classroom created their own digital museum walls and participated in class discussions about belonging, justice and systemic problems within their school.


Black History Month at CES“We discussed the fact that Milo created a solution for the systemic problem she noticed; however, it was a small solution to a bigger problem,” McDaniel said. “Students learned that her solution solved the problem for herself and her community, but steps still needed to be taken to solve the larger problem that the museum had, in order for it to equitably show all cultures. This took us into a discussion about systemic problems in our school. Students came up with great ideas, and then worked as a class to brainstorm solutions to the problems that will help the school as a whole.”


The major goal for the week’s lesson was to open a dialogue about the importance of accepting others, McDaniel said. “We live in a time where it is all too easy to silence, ignore or even belittle others who are different from us. I would like my students to honor and celebrate one another's differences as what makes us unique, so they have the skills to handle this as they grow up.”


Black History Month at CESStudents in McDaniel’s class were enthusiastic about the lessons being learned. “It’s important because it teaches you new things like how we should be good friends to everyone,” one third-grader said. “If we don’t talk about the problems, then the problems will keep happening again and again.”


Students expressed hope and encouragement for the future. “The solutions will change the people and the world in a good way,” one student said. Another said, “People will learn to respect each other’s feelings, because that’s an important thing to happen in the world.”


The work will never be done, McDaniel said. “I don’t look at it as a standard that can be checked off a list. Rather, I see it as an ongoing process that requires intentionality and effort. Additionally, though Black History Month is a time when we can initiate these discussions, I believe equity and respecting one another’s differences should be a priority modeled and discussed throughout the entire year. Will students ever ‘reach’ this goal? I hope so. But, this does not mean that the work will ever be done.


Hansen students begin celebration with MLK, Jr. Day

Students at Hansen Elementary School began their celebration with Martin Luther King, Jr. 's birthday.


Black History Month at HES“We learned about his life and watched clips of speeches and marches,” said second and third grade teacher Maria Turbeville. “The class completed a reading and writing packet with facts about his life to remember. The writing ended with students answering the question, ‘What would you thank him for?’”


Other Black History Month projects at Hansen included new morning song routines, a schoolwide Zoom assembly, biographies of influential Black Americans, posters, a quilt, reading, slideshows, writing and coloring. View our Facebook Photo Album that includes photos and videos featuring HES students.


“We had wonderful discussions and learning, as this was new learning for many students,” Turbeville said. “We will continue the writing as it fits with our themes throughout the year such as Women's History and Pride Month.”


Roosevelt students study 13 Guiding Principles of Black Lives Matter at School

At Roosevelt Elementary School, each grade level was assigned two guiding principles to study in depth, said Roosevelt Principal Sean Shaughnessy. Grade level teams created beautiful and informative displays around the school to illustrate each guiding principle. Classrooms were then invited on “gallery walks” with their teachers to learn about all 13 guiding principles.


Boston Harbor students learn about influential Black Americans

At Boston Harbor Elementary School, artwork was displayed throughout the school, both indoors and out, to celebrate Black History Month.


“Our school equity team prepared a variety of lessons for us to draw from during Black History Month,” said fourth grade teacher Elizabeth Wilson. “We're learning about justice, empathy and kindness as we share more about ourselves and learn more from one another. This year, with the help of a grant and dedicated committee of staff and parents, our school librarian, Felicity Womer, added a significant selection of new picture books to our library. We are drawing from these new additions to read more about important moments and individuals throughout black history.”


Wilson continued, “Our fourth grade class also worked off a Learning for Justice lesson plan to research influential Black historical figures like Ida B. Wells and Sojourner Truth,” Wilson said. “We looked at what these individuals fought against, what they fought for, and who supported their work. We created cubes to share our learning, and then we created a second cube to share what we personally would fight against, what we would fight for, and who would join us to support this work. We shared these passions at a schoolwide assembly with bright and colorful artwork.”


LP Brown students embrace Black History Month with art

A colorful wall quilt of painted paper art squares created by LP Brown Elementary students in celebration of Black History Month and Black American Artists is on display at the Knox 111 Administrative Center. The “Celebrating Black American Artists through the Art of Quilts” quilt is made up of 21 art squares that students created using tempera paint and paint sticks. Students learned about Black American artists, Alma Woodsey Thomas (painter and retired art teacher) and quilters from African slaves during the Civil War era through a childrens storybook, “Show Way” by Jacqueline Woodson.


Black History Month theme for Thurgood Marshall’s morning announcements

Advisory, social studies and visual communications classes at Thurgood Marshall Middle School have included lessons on Black History Month this year, said Principal Condee Wood. “We read an announcement every morning and show a slide to all students of an important figure from Black History,” Wood said. “Our Social Studies classes then dig deeper into that figure, sometimes watching accompanying videos, reading short excerpts or discussing the value of the person's contributions.”


OHS students take Black History Month to social media

At Olympia High School, students and staff are celebrating Black History Month in morning announcements and on social media to acknowledge the great accomplishments of the black community and their positive impact on the world. A few featured figures include George Washington Carver, Alice Coachman and Serena Williams. The hallways of OHS were also adorned with artwork and posters commemorating Black History Month, including a colorful, informative display in the main hall with names of black activists, musicians, politicians, artists, scientists, actors, firsts, entrepreneurs, athletes and authors.


As Black History Month comes to a close, the lessons learned carry on. Read more about the district’s racial equity and culturally responsive practices in the OSD Academic and Student Well-Being Recovery Plan.