Celebrating Black Lives and Voices

Mae Jemison. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Misty Copeland. Kamala Harris. Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett.

These are just a handful of the African American scientists, artists, and leaders our Dragons have been learning about this month as we have sought to recognize the contributions of Black voices and lives as part of Black History Month. At WES, we are actively working to ensure that our curriculum offers multiple perspectives and voices throughout the year. However, our society has set aside this month to pay special honor to African Americans, and we wish to join that celebration. In recognition of the fact that history is created every day, our faculty were also encouraged by our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team to pay special attention to the contributions of African Americans who are still alive, as well as create opportunities for students to contribute their ideas, experiences, and learning to classroom discussions. 

Our faculty integrated these learning opportunities throughout the curriculum in various subject areas. Several classes highlighted Amanda Gorman, the National Youth Poet Laureate who spoke at President Biden’s recent inauguration. We discovered that many of our Kindergarten Dragons had watched the inauguration when they recognized Ms. Gorman’s picture. They learned that she began writing when she was not much older than them, and together, the students created an acrostic poem about WES in her honor.  

Grade 5 was inspired by a Ted Talk by Ms. Gorman where she said she “stands on the shoulders of the ancestors who came before” her. The students discussed the difference between familial ancestors and non-familial ancestors whose lives have paved the way for us to live our lives today, and they reflected on both types of ancestors in their own lives. This became the focus of their Black History Month celebration, where they explored modern-day history makers and the ancestors who came before them in fields such as education, politics, STEM, and the arts. 

While I have chosen to highlight two projects, there has been great learning going on throughout the building. Astronaut Mae C. Jemison was discussed in Kindergarten, Grade 5, and Pre-K, where Ms. Jemison and her accomplishments were used to kick off a space-themed unit. Grade 1 has been learning about African American inventors, including George Crum, Dr. Patricia Bath, and Marie Van Brittain Brown. Grade 2 focused on Black authors and Black lives during read-alouds, as well as learning about Lebron James’ I Promise School as part of their study of the virtue of the month, generosity.  Grade 3 has been thinking about how they can “be a king” like MLK and an upstander through their daily choices and actions, as well as celebrating African American inventors and authors. Middle School has been diving deep into the Civil Rights Movement, and students in our Kaleidoscope Clubs (Grades 4-8) researched current Black figures who inspire them and created a slideshow to share their research with the community. This project has been so successful that Middle School advisories have followed their lead. Many of our specials teachers have also sought to integrate these themes into their lessons these months.  

While we will continue to teach and celebrate Black history and contributions throughout the school year, we are glad to embrace the opportunities Black History Month provides to highlight Black historical figures and lift up current Black voices as well. 

Head of School

Danny Vogelman