Kindergarteners Learn, Share and Celebrate Black History Month

  • Voices
Kindergarteners Learn, Share and Celebrate Black History Month
Meg Ellis, Kindergarten Teacher

All five kindergarten classes collaborate in their research and presentations about influential Black Americans. 

To celebrate Black History Month, all five kindergarten classes collaboratively researched, designed and presented inspiring information about influential Black Americans. 

This two-week project began when our Lower School librarians, Emily Zeblo and Jessica Ortolono, provided a list of both historical and contemporary figures featured in our databases, PebbleGo and Abdo Zoom. Next, each class adopted one of these influential people to research: Ms. Tanik’s class chose athlete Serena Williams, Mrs. Crudup’s group selected NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, Mrs. Rao’s students studied former President Barack Obama, Mrs. Coffey’s class picked astronaut Mae Jamison, and my class took on ballerina Misty Copeland.   

My students learned all about how Misty Copeland’s very first ballet teacher recognized her great talent that led her to become the first and only Black prima ballerina in the classical ballet company, the American Ballet Theater.

Next, during each class’s library time, Mrs. Ortolono and Mrs. Zeblo introduced the students to the Super3 research process to get us started. To learn and remember the three major steps (plan, do and review), students sang and danced to a catchy song to the tune of B-I-N-G-O. On a divided piece of newsprint, students and librarians listed what they Knew about their chosen person, what they Wanted to know about him or her, and what they Learned about this person — their “KWL” chart.  

My students knew that Misty Copeland was a dancer. Among other things, they wanted to know what made Misty Copeland famous, what she liked to do when she was a child, where she grew up, when and where she learned to dance, what equipment she needed for dancing, and what she likes to do when she is not dancing.

Both in-person and virtual students divided these questions according to their particular interests, and they searched PebbleGo and Abdo Zoom. Students both listened to and read articles as they searched the sources for answers to their questions. Excitement grew as students exclaimed what they were learning about their person. Lots of exclamations like “Did you know?” and “Guess what I found out!” swirled around our classrooms as students consulted various sources. This information would eventually be arranged on a tripartite poster and would serve as the “What We Learned” part of our KWL chart. It had to be carefully written in the best handwriting, and the drawings had to be detailed and colorful, as they would need to be clearly visible to our Zoom audience when both in-person and virtual students presented to fellow kindergarten classmates in other classrooms and to virtual kindergarteners at home.  

My class’s Misty Copeland poster featured the Boys and Girls Club where she, at 13 years old, first encountered ballet. Students drew Misty and her teacher, Cindy Bradley, as this influential woman told Misty that she was very talented and should attend a summer institute to develop her natural gift for dance. Carefully rendered tutus and pointe shoes, giant leaps across the stage, a stack of book titles she wrote, and the building that houses Misty Copeland’s ABC organization, which encourages young girls and boys to study ballet, enhanced the written words on the children’s poster.   

The week before our presentations, the Kindergarten daily morning meeting message was “I can cooperate (work with others) to do hard things and make this world a better place.” Throughout the week’s morning meetings on cooperation, you could hear many references to the project.  

When asked how they liked working together on the project, here’s what my kindergarteners had to say:

  • Palmer Holman exclaimed, “If I had to do all of this work by myself, I would have to work for 10,000 million trillion days to get it all done!”  

  • Bryan Hanson added, “It’s so much more fun to have each person do a little bit and then put it all together into a big thing.”  

  • “I mean, look what we did! It’s so good!” Mia Wei said.

  • Bash Dill added, “We worked together to learn and share what we learned.”  

  • Uli Collier observed, “We made the world a better place because we taught each other about important people who made a difference for so many people.”  

For me, this project was the ultimate opportunity to put so many of my teaching goals to practice: differentiation; collaboration; and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion — to name just a few.

After hearing and seeing other class’ presentations, students realized that they had even collaborated beyond our classroom walls. One of my students, Daniela Couture, excitedly exclaimed that she had learned about someone had never even heard of before but now “loves”: Mae Jamison. She said, “I want to meet her! I have so many questions I want to ask her about Mars, being an astronaut, and Outer Space!”

Resilience, perseverance, curiosity, self-awareness, collaboration, cultural inclusivity — Lead From Here is at work in this project, and in every aspect of kindergarten. The competency that we witnessed most during our work on these Black History Month projects was collaboration. It’s as if kindergarteners, because almost every single experience is new to them, depend on each other as they learn Every. New. Thing.