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CK students bring black history figures to life

Students Hailie Tallant, Collins Clark-Hill, Issac Austron and Malchi Lawsen hold up photos of African Americans who have made a difference in history. Each student read off facts about the person they researched to attendees who stopped by their group presentation area.  - Seraine Page
Students Hailie Tallant, Collins Clark-Hill, Issac Austron and Malchi Lawsen hold up photos of African Americans who have made a difference in history. Each student read off facts about the person they researched to attendees who stopped by their group presentation area.
— image credit: Seraine Page

In honor of Black History Month, students from across the Central Kitsap School District participated in an interactive “living” museum event this week.

“A Living History: Journey of Hope,” showcased the work of students throughout the school district from all grade levels at Olympic High School Tuesday evening. Attendees were invited to step back through history as they walked through various rooms where students gathered to perform or announce facts on historical African American figures.

The event gave parents an opportunity to see their children in action while learning a thing or two themselves.

Parent Kathryn Foley watched from afar as her son, Austin Cohn, presented his information on Scott Joplin to anyone who passed by his tri-fold presentation.

Cohn’s project was one of 40 presented by Fairview Junior High eighth graders.

“It’s very interesting,” said Foley. “It’s a lot of information I didn’t know.”

Several groups of students from various schools gathered in the auditorium, including Clear Creek Elementary School students who signed Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” for guests.

Throughout the event, students lined corridors and hallways and remained silent until an attendee stopped in front of them.

Students then came to “life” to give brief biographies on the historical person they researched their project on.

Fairview Junior High Marshawn Humphrey chose to do his project on George Washington Carver, who was born into slavery and defied all odds by becoming a scientist.

Humphrey said he was glad to do the project because Carver’s accomplishments were impressive to learn about as well as notable.

The eighth grader said Black History Month is a way “to learn about how other people can change the world.”

As a wrap up, guests were then invited to munch on fried chicken along with rice and red beans as Brownsville Elementary students performed songs on xylophones and gegenspielers.

Jeni Zapatka, professional development specialist for the district, said she hoped the cultural event would bring hope to those in attendance. Zapatka noted that oftentimes African American history is focused on the negative aspects, such as oppression and slavery.

“What we really wanted to do is have a very engaging night,” she said. “We wanted people to be able to walk through and walk away being very hopeful.”

The event, in its sixth year, was organized by a planning committee made of community leaders focused on diversity. Each year a theme is chosen for the event, Zapatka said.

Throughout the walk-through event, posters with the word “hope” kept the theme flowing from beginning to end.

In the cafeteria, students were encouraged to write on a poster what hope meant to them.

Fairview Jr. High student Grace Morris wrote on the sign as she reflected on the night’s events.

“I feel like it’s important,” she said of Black History Month celebrations. “I feel like we should learn about what our country is built on.”

Teacher Kerry Gibbons said she was impressed by how quickly her students were able to pull their informational boards together. Her class only had eight days notice before they had to present at the event.

“They had to take in all kinds of information,” she said. “The kids got a lesson in perseverance. Everyone they got information on are those who all achieved great things.”

Gibbons noted that because her students chose historical figures of significance, they have solid role models they can look to for getting past hard times.

“There’s no obstacle too big,” Gibbons said of the lesson learned. “These people did amazing things.”

According to The Law Library of Congress website, National African American History Month dates back to 1915.

“National African American History Month in February celebrates the contributions that African Americans have made to American history in their struggles for freedom and equality and deepens our understanding of our Nation’s history,” states the website.

 

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