Black History Month and STEAM Education Coincide at TDS

February 18, 2021

We held our first ever virtual Science Expo yesterday at TDS, featuring an introduction from Mr. Forringer and Dr. Nelson. Thanks to these teachers, as well as Mrs. Khan, Mrs. Fisher, and Ms. Farrer, and congratulations to all of our students who shared their research and projects. The fun continues this afternoon with a live virtual demonstration from Physics students at Duke at 2:00. Speaking of science that’s out of this world, the Perseverance Rover lands on Mars today at 2:15pm. You and your children can watch this live!

Now more than halfway through Black History Month, students in all ten grades have investigated the contributions of famous as well as lesser known Black Americans, explored Black history through multiple lenses, and so much more. Here are just a few examples:

  • TK students have learned about Mae Jemison and Katherine Johnson as part of their Space unit, and they have watched the series: Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices, which features celebrities and artists reading stories written by Black authors that spark kid-friendly conversations about equality, empathy, self-love and antiracism.
  • Kindergartners have focused on scientists (including George Washington Carver), music (Billie Holiday and Marian Anderson), poetry (Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou). They’ve also read about Rosa Parks and what it means to take a stand by sitting.
  • Ms. Philbeck’s fourth graders are collaborating to create this padlet which documents their exploration of biographies of Claudette Colvin, John Lewis, and many more.
  • LS Music students have been reading books and watching videos about Black musicians, artists, and performers including “My Favorite Things” by John Coltrane and “Swan Lake” with Misty Copeland.
  • Ms. Heysha’s upper elementary students have been using their Spanish skills to read about historical figures, then choosing an afro-descendent from the United States to research, and finally using the information to create a poster and present it in class in Spanish.
  • Fifth graders are focusing on Black scientists during Science Week.
  • Ms. Stewart’s sixth graders are reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds. Stamped dives into the history of racist ideas in America, and how we can work to create an antiracist future.

Meanwhile, the education has not been limited to our students. Krishna Munshi has published the BHM fact of the day on the TDS DEI page on WhatsApp, highlighting Dorothy Height, Vivien Thomas, and many other fascinating stories that typically aren’t featured in history textbooks. Krishna’s daily research has spurred a robust dialogue. I encourage all of you to join in the learning and conversation.

Even as teachers share all of these wonderful stories and resources, we are keenly aware that teaching the history and contributions of everyone must be the rule, not the exception. We celebrate science during Science Week, but we teach science all year long. Similarly, we know that the emphasizing Black history cannot be confined to February. Here’s one example from an 8th grade Social Studies project earlier this fall in which a student explained how to confront oppression using strategies and tactics from the Civil Rights Movement.

Living up to our commitment “to creating awareness, developing cultural competence, and building a diverse and inclusive environment where all persons are valued for their unique qualities” requires a growth mindset and a true desire to learn. Along those lines, our faculty engaged in a three-hour training session this past Friday with Dr. Ronda Taylor Bullock and Dr. Saranjanee Davis from we are, a local organization working to extend anti-racist education. Specifically, we unpacked culturally relevant pedagogy, including the importance of examining our own biases, learning the cultures of our students, cultivating leadership and critical thinking, and making sure that all of our students are represented, and allowed to represent themselves, in our curriculum. It was a morning of learning and reflection, one that will help us to pursue our mission even more fully as we work with your wonderful children.

Doug Norry
Head of School

TDS Spelling Bee Finals
TDS Virtual Book Fair

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