Across the Cherry Creek School District, students and teachers are celebrating Black History Month and learning about the contributions of African Americans in new and innovative ways.
At Arrowhead Elementary, school psychologist Amber Newcomb and speech therapist Samantha Kessler created a Black History Virtual Museum in the school’s main hallway. It features photos of more than 60 influential African Americans. Each photo has a QR code that students can scan with a tablet, laptop or phone to access information about that person’s background and accomplishments.
“As the ‘No Place for Hate’ sponsor and a member of Arrowhead’s Equity team, I felt we needed a way to showcase as many influential people as we could, to teach our students that Black history is America’s history,” Newcomb said. “We want our students to know how important it is to learn about how Black people have contributed to American history, and that it shouldn’t just be taught for a month. It should be taught every day.”
That same commitment to year-round learning about Black and American history can be found at High Plains Elementary, where office manager Annette Couch created a Periodic Table of Black History that will be utilized throughout the year. Instead of scientific elements, the table features African Americans who have made significant contributions in fields ranging from civil rights, to politics, to the arts, education, science and sports.
As students peruse the table, they are finding a very familiar figure – their principal.
“We included Unique Cooper because she is the first African American woman to be the principal of High Plains Elementary,” Couch said. “I thought it was important for our students to see someone they know who is making history.”
Like the Arrowhead virtual museum, the High Plains periodic table features a QR code that students can scan to access biographical information. Fourth- and fifth-grade students have been using the table as they conduct research for Black History month reports. They say they have been impressed and inspired by what they’ve learned.
“It’s really cool to see all these African American heroes,” said fifth-grader Paul Groves. “I learned that Harriet Tubman helped slaves on the Underground Railroad.”
“Amanda Gorman graduated at the age of 19 from Harvard,” said fellow fifth-grade student Jakayla Carr, who studied the young poet who spoke at President Biden’s inauguration ceremony.
“Lebron James always believed in himself and never gave up and he also helped others,” added Jace Hatchett, a fifth-grader who researched the iconic basketball star.
The table is also growing as students add other contemporary and historical African Americans that they are studying. Fourth-grader Autumn Ashford is adding Ruby Bridges.
“She was the first Black child to attend an all-white school,” Ashford explained.
In just a short time, the Periodic Table of Black History has proven to be a valuable learning tool that will be utilized well beyond Black History Month.
“It’s been a really incredible way of introducing students to African American heroes in so many areas,” Principal Cooper said.
Contributed by Anna Osborn Dolan, communications coordinator, Cherry Creek Schools.
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