Anna Lisa Rodano, principal of Harrison Township School, said students throughout the building had many learning experiences right within their classrooms.
“There were learners engaged in ‘I Have A Dream’ writing pieces in which they shared what they want to achieve in their future,” she said. “Other students researched influential Black Americans and practiced their public speaking skills sharing their facts with other Explorers, while others developed biographies celebrating the accomplishments of influential Black Americans.”
“Students embraced the many inventions developed by Black Americans as they voted on ice cream flavors to honor the ice cream scoop inventor Alfred Cralle,” she added. “They built edible traffic lights to celebrate Garrett Morgan and explored uses for peanuts while learning about George Washington Carver.”
At Pleasant Valley School, student council members read facts about influential African Americans on the morning announcements each day, said principal Dr. Karen Russo. Teachers explained further using corresponding presentations. Harrison Township School did something similar.
Additionally, on Trivia Tuesdays, Rodano asks students trivia questions during lunch, using a “Who Am I?” format.
“We talk about the influential Americans from the week before, so they have to really listen,” she said. “If someone answers correctly on the mic, their whole class gets a little certificate and kindness coins.
“Each week I try to do a little extra something,” she said. For example, she showed Kamala Harris’ book as a YouTube reading. She also recommended that classes get items such as potato chips, which were first created by Black American George Crum in the 1850s. “It makes it more of a memory,” she said.
It is important for students to connect with what they are learning about, so that it is authentic and better understood. Rodano helped forge this link by using pictures that depicted black Americans in color photos instead of black-and-white.
“A teacher pointed out to me that when you look at photos of influential Black Americans, many times they are in black-and-white,” she said. “What that does is make people and children feel like this is something that happened a really long time ago. But it didn’t. This was really impactful for me.
“Recognizing all of the cultures in this community is significant. It goes beyond background and ethnicity. It really is a mindset in regard to inclusivity. Everybody needs to learn and be accepting of one another. We are all part of a wonderful community and a wonderful school. It’s a great place to be.”
As abolitionist Harriett Tubman said long ago, “Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars and change the world.” This sentiment holds true for the children in our community, always encouraged to “explore for more” and “reach for the stars”.