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Elementary students around the county have been taking part in lessons for Black History Month during the past few weeks, with teachers ensuring lessons begin at an early age.
One fourth grade class at Morningside Elementary School made models of historical black figures who have been featured on postage stamps. Students had to learn about the person and give a presentation on the subjects’ lives, teacher Roseann Thrush said.
Thrush has led the project for two years and likes that it allows students to see changes that have taken place in the United States. She talks with students about the civil rights movement and about her own childhood. They’re fascinated to learn she attended school at a time when there were no minorities in her class.
“That’s unbelievable to them; it’s almost unbelievable to me,” Thrush said.
Black History Month has an interesting connection to Kentucky: Carter Woodson, who is known as the father of Black History Month, attended Berea College, said Doug Cantrell, a history professor at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College.
This is part of what Cantrell includes in his own history lessons, and said that skipping some of the important black figures in history “would be doing students a disservice,” he said.
“You just don’t want to leave out anybody,” he said.
Stephanie Gray’s class at New Highland Elementary School was assigned to give reports on black personalities throughout history. Gray focused on some people who aren’t as well-known.
“A lot of these people you really don’t hear about,” she said. She wanted her students to have the exposure.
Her students were excited to learn about people who had an impact on the U.S., Gray said.
Starr Thurman was among them, saying she enjoyed the project “because you learn about the African Americans who are changing the way that America is ran,” she said.
Gray said it’s not about learning about one race, but rather multiple cultures, and seeing and accepting the differences in them. She focuses on answering students’ questions on the subject.
“When they ask, I teach; what they want to know, I teach,” she said.
Black History Month lessons weren’t only relegated to social studies.
Joseph Cecil, art teacher at Lakewood Elementary School, had his students working on different kinds of West African art. He uses that as a springboard to talk about different cultures, and the dangers of stereotyping them.
“They can’t just put everyone into one group,” Cecil said.
Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.