Studying and celebrating Back history is more than a one-month observance at the Oregon School District.
Students have read about Black historical figures and African American history and culture throughout the school year. In February, the district provided several events for Black History Month, including some where the students could lead activities.
Lessons and activities on Black history are “ongoing and integrated into the curriculum,” District communications director Erika Mundinger told the Observer.
For the district’s youngest 4K learners, that meant reading short stories with diverse characters and themes of inclusion, and books by authors of color.
Students in grades K-4 watched a series of Public Broadcasting System (PBS) videos on Black history, as well as reading books written by Black authors and student announcements highlighting Black historical figures.
Fifth-and sixth graders focused on read-aloud activities and lessons on the accomplishments of Black people, such as NASA astronaut Mae Jemison. Students in grades 7-8 are planning a virtual celebration that highlights the contributions and talents of Black people.
At Oregon High School, the month kicked off Feb. 1 with a video about the history behind Black History Month. Throughout the month, teachers presented lessons on famous people, economics, culture and current events.
On Feb. 10, OHS students watched a video featuring recent alumni of color reflecting on the events of the past year, their OHS experience and their future goals and aspirations. The Multicultural Student Union gave a video presentation on African-American culture and led weekly mini-lessons based around African American history, culture and economics, something superintendent Leslie Bergstrom highlighted at the Feb. 8 school board meeting.
“What’s really exciting about that is students are planning the lessons,” she said. “We have a lot of students who are really invested in ensuring that we are continuously looking at other learning experiences with an inclusive lens.”
Throughout the month, students have learned about Black history and culture in a variety of subjects. In English classes, sophomores worked on a social justice poetry unit, including poetry based on racial inequalities. Freshmen were introduced to poets who wrote about racial inequalities, including Amanda Gorman, Rudy Francisco, Marshall Davis Jones, Kendrick Lamar, Clint Smith and Sarah Kay, in a semester-long activity.
In studying about American imperialism, history students analyzed the attitudes of the African-American community toward the Spanish-American War, comparing those with U.S. leaders. Students also assessed the editorial style and tone of turn of-the-century black newspapers.
OHS art classes have incorporated “Black Art History” into the curriculum throughout the year, including Ernie Barnes and Moneta J. Sleet Jr. Barnes, a former professional football player, was a painter/visual artist known for his unique style of energy and movement. He created The Beauty of the Ghetto exhibition of 35 paintings that toured major American cities from 1972 to 1979.
Sleet Jr. was an American press photographer awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography in 1969 for his photograph of Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, at her husband’s funeral. He was the first African-American man to win the Pulitzer, and the first African American to win the award for journalism.
Later this year, band students will perform the piece Unspoken, by Black American composer Katahj Copley, whom students will also get to meet and interact with.