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Student next to a poster about Madam CJ Walker

Across AUSD sites this month, schools have honored and celebrated Black History Month in a variety of ways. AUSD’s Elia Rogers visited several sites to get an upclose view of the very different ways our staff and employees recognized contributions made - and still being made - by Black scientists, poets, artists, activists, athletes, and musicians.


At Earhart, teachers facilitated lessons about the contributions of Black Americans to U.S. history and culture, Black resistance, and freedom movements as a part of a two-day, school-wide teach-in.

In Taylor Raine Taylor's fifth grade class, for instance, students watched instructional videos and participated in a lesson about what the Black Lives Matter movement means to kids. Bryan Dunn-Ruiz led a discussion about Ruby Bridges and asked students thought-provoking questions about her experience desegregating schools.

Fifth graders also completed reports on Black historical figures in the United States and hung them in the hallways around the school. Students of all grades stopped during recess to read the reports.

Many students who participated in the assignment were excited to share what they learned about their report subject and the hobbies and facts they had in common.

Lessons on Black history were not limited to the teach-in. Students learned about Mae Jemison, created art in the style of Jacob Lawrence, studied the Harlem Renaissance, explored jazz and dance, and studied the history of the Negro leagues and Jackie Robinson throughout February.


OTIS: STEAM Project - Mae Jemison

In the STEAM class at Otis, students engineered and observed rocket launches based on the contributions of Mae Jemison, the first Black woman to go into outer space.

"Our classroom focused on various black inventors and scientists, but we put our main focus on Mae Jemison because she has done so much for the science world," says Foley. "She is a doctor, scientist, and astronaut! She still contributes to science today, and she went to college at Stanford University, which many kids made the connection to also being in the Bay Area."

K-2 students used paper, tape, and straws to create and propel their rockets.

"They added a straw with a larger circumference (boba straw) to the inside of their rocket and taped one end shut," Foley added. Students then placed a smaller, regular drinking straw inside the boba straw and blew into it to launch their rockets.

Grades 3-5 strung a rubberband through a decorated plastic cup, their rockets, to create stored energy. Students then stacked the cups on top of a second plastic cup and pushed it down to generate enough power to launch the rocket. Foley noted that this project was an example of Newton's Third Law, "that for every force, there will be an equal force."

"Students were able to use scientific principles to create force and make a connection to a very historical and inspiring woman in STEM, Mae Jemison," says Foley.


ASTI Celebrates Black History Month with Poetry Reading

ASTI students honored Black History Month by sharing the words of African American poets, both past and present.

On February 10, students gathered for a Black History Month poetry reading organized by ASTI's leadership class. Students and faculty took turns reading poems from several artists: Tupac, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others. Mabel Minney, an MLK Freedom Center participant and twelfth grader, curated the reading list for the activity, and leadership teacher Jennifer Hayman helped facilitate the reading.

Haiti McElroy, 9th grade, read an original poem entitled "A Melanin Hand," a work about her experience as a Black girl. McElroy, a poet, writes about a myriad of themes, including her surroundings, nature, and identity.

Students also created posters, attended a screening of the film "Just Mercy," and hosted David Gaines, an ASTI alum and the MLK Freedom Center's Director of Community Affairs, for a discussion about the Black Panther Movement.