Celebrating Black History Month throughout the district

IMG 0643JOHNSTON, IA. (Feb. 17, 2022) — They’ve used books and bulletin boards, photos, songs, videos, art and slideshows. Midway through February, here’s a look at how some Johnston schools have been celebrating Black History Month.


Walk into Wallace Elementary and you’ll be greeted by a fun bulletin board called “Getting to the heart of Black History Month.”

Jakyra Anderson, an associate at Wallace Elementary, created the quilt-type bulletin board with a patchwork of construction paper representing different colors of skin tones — including tan, brown and black.

The board features Black Americans including Coretta Scott King, Condoleezza Rice, Langston Hughes, Michael Jordan, Beyoncé Knowles and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Anderson said she chose to use hearts on the board because people also associate February with Valentine’s Day.


IMG 0637At Summit Middle School, a special display in the library developed by teacher librarian Kelly McAlister is dedicated to Black History Month.

McAlister created the display after doing a diversity audit of books in the library, looking for authors and characters of color and/or LGBTQ+ orientation. A “Read Black” sign indicates that the display features “books by Black authors, featuring Black characters or about the historical Black experience.”

Summit students can find books in this section about Barack and Michelle Obama, Venus and IMG 0638Serena Williams, Trevor Noah and Martin Luther King Jr.

They can also read about Black Lives Matter or a book called “The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person,” a New York Times bestseller reflecting on experiences with racism.

One book features “Hidden Figures,” the story of three female African-American mathematicians at NASA — Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson — who served as the brains behind the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. Their story, featured in a 2016 movie, showed how Black women served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program. 


IMG 0632At Timber Ridge Elementary, one way that students are learning about Black History Month is through music.

Students have enjoyed the book “Sing a Song,” which follows the journey of the powerful song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” from generation to generation, marking the significant role of music in the ongoing fight for civil rights and equality.

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” is also the song of the month at Timber Ridge. Written in 1899 by James Weldon Johnston as a poem celebrating Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, the song is often referred to as the Black national anthem because of its historic importance to Black culture in the U.S.

“While music has been called a universal language, every story needs and deserves to be told,” said Timber Ridge music teacher Jake Strachan. “Classical European traditions carry significance in music education, but so many students find more of themselves in stories like this. We’ve had some great discussions about family, culture, social issues, and the role music plays in documenting all of our unique journeys.”


Fourth graders at Beaver Creek Elementary School are learning about Black history through a book called, “28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World.” The team effort was spearheaded by fourth-grade teacher Miranda Pille, who’s very passionate about equity and inclusion for all.

“Each day we learn about a new person and their contributions to our nation’s history,” fourth-grade teacher Nick Gomez said. “We get a little background on the person and the event they Image002participated in.”

To extend their learning, the fourth graders can view a Google Slideshow with supplemental videos and information. Then, they write about what they learned.

“Students not only learn about these brave individuals, but we encourage our students to journal and write down connections, facts, or really anything that resonates with them,” Gomez said. We made special journals that go with our book. The students enjoy learning about important history and celebrating these courageous and fearless people.”