Wallace fourth graders look to people and art to celebrate Black History Month

Black History Month image1JOHNSTON, IA. (Feb. 1, 2022) — This February during Black History Month, Wallace Elementary fourth graders will celebrate the achievements of African-Americans in U.S. history through both a featured person of the day, and an artist of the week.

With “Person of the Day,” students will learn about historic figures such as Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman — as well as more recent names such as former President Barack Obama, poet laureate Amanda Gorman and the late actor Chadwick Boseman.

Students will see these African-American leaders identified in a Black History Month calendar with pictures and links. But they’ll also be encouraged to take their learning a step further. 

“The fourth-grade team worked with our librarian Lisa Tegels to help us come up with some influential African-Americans,” said Wallace fourth-grade teacher Meghan Stone. “We tried to have a variety of people including past and present day. We also encourage the students to research any influential African-American on their own. They do not have to be one that is listed on our ‘Person of the Day.” It was a starting point to get them to continue to research.”Black History Month image2

Students will take notes about what they learned, identify character traits of these leaders, make posters with their learnings and hang them in Wallace’s fourth-grade community.

To make things more relatable, the fourth graders will then select which of the influential leaders they would hypothetically like to have dinner with. They’ll explain why they would choose that person and come up with three questions they would ask that person if they could.

This is the second year that Wallace will be using this approach to learning during Black History Month.

Black history Month image3“Last year, we had posters up during the first week of March because we spent each day in February learning about someone new, and then the last week of February, we spent time putting our poster together,” Stone said. “It was really cool to hear their reasons why they would want to have dinner with that person.”

In addition to studying a Person of the Day, Wallace fourth graders will also be learning about African-American artists this year through a featured Artist of the Week each Friday.

“I wanted to do a featured Friday artist during Black History Month as a quick way to Black history month art activitiesintroduce my students to artists of color, both old and new,” said Wallace fourth-grade teacher Mary Ellen Nesbit. “I love including art into my gen ed classroom because learning about artists and their work is a way we can learn and connect about history, diverse backgrounds and cultures. And as an art enthusiast, I like to see my students get excited about learning new styles or about new artists in our world.”

From Faith Ringgold, who invented the “story quilt” that told stories about people and events; to Tyree Guyton, who turned “magic trash” into art; to the portrait work of Kehinde Wiley; students will learn about how these artists’ stories and culture played a key role in their artistry.

Black history month image4The study includes read alouds and age-appropriate videos about these artists. Then, the fourth graders will engage in some artistry of their own with a fun activity inspired by the African-American artists.

The learning won’t end after Black History Month. Wallace fourth graders will continue their “Person of the Day” approach to learning next month during Women’s History Month. The March calendar is already filled with lessons about trailblazing women such as Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, Joan of Arc and Sacagawea.

“It is a goal to have this for more than those two months,” Stone said. “We would like to have it to honor other heritage months, as well.”