Masked and costumed students and staff from all over Alameda High School danced, marched, and sang around the school during the 2nd Annual Special Education Mardi Gras Parade on February 15.
The participants, led by the band, started the parade in the Walnut Street parking lot behind the school and walked around the block, ending their march in front of the school steps. The band played Mardi Gras staples while all students and staff danced and cheered.
This year's festivities are a continuation of an annual tradition for the school. The idea for the parade came to Avonnet Peeler, a Special Education teacher, last year as a way to combine two themes in February: Black History Month and Mardi Gras.
Peeler used history and art to guide her lesson planning. Last year, students studied "Trombone Shorty," a Black musician who started his career at age three and whose hometown, New Orleans, inspired his music.
Students also learned about Mardi Gras, brass instruments, how to differentiate each by ear, and how krewes, the groups that stage Mardi Gras festivities, create costumes and floats. They also made their own Mardi Gras-inspired decorations and masks, ultimately inspiring Peeler to suggest that they organize their parade.
"Our students and staff sometimes feel unseen or ignored by the general school population," said Peeler, "I felt it would be a great opportunity for our students to develop confidence and a sense of pride."
Her idea worked. They joyfully danced and sang their way down the parade route, only to be met by the general study body cheering them on once they turned downed Central Avenue. Peeler added, "it was electrifying."
"This year, when our Vice Principle, Ms. Allison, sent out an email polling SPED teachers as to how we can foster more inclusion with the entire student body, I thought of our next "SPED Mardi Gras Parade," said Peeler.
While organizing the parade this year, Peeler contacted teachers from all over campus, asking them if their students would be open to participating. She had students and staff from several organizations and departments join the revelry.
"There has already been talk of next year by general education teachers and students," said Peeler. "With that and full inclusion in mind, I can say that our SPED Mardi Gras Parade was a success that can only get better."