Union Free School District
- Hastings-on-Hudson U.F.S.D.
Farragut Middle School Students Learn About Black History Creatively
Farragut Middle School students are learning about Black History in a creative way this month.
What if George Washington Carver had a Facebook page?
In Larry Cerretani’s sixth grade English and language arts class, students have been researching influential African American figures as a part of Black History Month. For their “journaling our appreciation for influential African Americans'' assignment, students select specific historical figures who have contributed to history and society in various ways and develop a highlights page in a Facebook format.
“There’s a bunch of different topics we can do,” said student Ami Martial. “We’ve done inventors, authors, and entertainers.”
While they learned about the many contributions, accomplishments, and achievements of these historical figures, students were also able to see examples of the adversity many of them faced. One of the goals of the assignment was to encourage the students to choose lesser-known influential figures they have yet to learn about in or out of the classroom.
“A lot of them already know the historical figures but we’re encouraging them to choose people who aren’t exactly household names,” said Cerretani, adding that is has been eye-opening for students to discover African American leaders who have made important contributions but are seldom mentioned in history books.
For Martial, choosing a historical figure she did not know actually revealed something she did not expect. Researching African American entrepreneur and political and social activist, Madam C.J. Walker, Martial found a connection that brought it close to home.
“I learned things I didn’t know,” she said. “Her house was in Irvington right near my old school.”
Student Eliana Wallach’s research led her to reading about such figures as Maya Angelou and George Washington Carver.
“I decided to do less famous people because I wanted to learn about new things,” she said. “I learned that a lot of the people were also different things, like George Washington Carver wasn’t just known for one thing.”
With their work being submitted into their digital writers notebook, a compilation of written assignments since September, students will be able to reflect on their assignment for Black History Month throughout the year and long after that.
“This really puts in the groundwork that black history is American history and American history is black history,” said Cerretani. “Realizing the accomplishments of African-Americans and the adversity they faced.”
For the students, the assignment has proven to be a unique way to learn about black history and has strengthened their research skills in the process. While learning about the figures, the students also learn how to utilize information from the internet effectively and accurately before translating it into a creative social media format.
“It’s pretty cool because it’s like creating a fake Facebook page and it’s really different,” said Wallach.
“We’ve never done anything like it in class,” added Martial.
Although the assignment is due in March, Cerretani said that his class prides itself in its inclusivity and that African American appreciation is a year-round activity.
“From day one, we have tried to incorporate social justice including racial issues in class,” he said. “Our group has a lot of ideas around making society more just and this project really connected with them.”