By Alesia Hilton
Principal of Griffith Elementary School
Starting with a line stretching all the way into the parking lot and ending with a savory hot dog dinner, Griffith Elementary School’s Black History Month-themed Wax Museum was, without a doubt, an unbridled success. Students spent the month of February selecting, researching, and ultimately “becoming” a famous African-American for the night.
This required much time and preparation on all fronts; students in grades third through fifth spent time practicing digital literacy skills through the use of Discovery Education, the NCWiseOwl database, and the Britannica Schools online encyclopedia. They worked with traditional media in the form of biographies and history texts related to their research figure. They looked into modes of dress during their chosen time period, picked out props, and then got ready for their big night. Meanwhile, grades kindergarten through second perfected songs and skits to be performed for parents. Teachers set up their classrooms for best foot-traffic flow throughout the night, and, with excitement buzzing in the air, everyone waited breathlessly for the big show.
In addition to being an excellent opportunity for students to improve their digital literacy skills and increase diversity awareness, students also used this event as an opportunity to raise money for their school. During the night, students stood frozen in their classrooms, ready to come alive when visitors added change to (often overflowing) cups. Smiles abounded as parents watched ‘Rosa Parks’, ‘Jackie Robinson’, and even ‘Barack Obama’ himself explain their pasts and how they made impacts on the world. The funds generated from this event will be used to purchase instructional supplies designed to increase the school’s ability to provide literacy and technology support to all students.
In response to being asked her opinion of the night, Citlaly, a fifth-grade student, responded, “My favorite part was that we could say our speeches to people who came to visit us. It’s sort of amazing that so many people came out. I felt really good because we got to earn money so the school could buy the stuff we need.”
In the diverse environment of Griffith Elementary, teachers work hard to promote tolerance, acceptance, and a deep knowledge of a world outside of students’ personal experiences. The students genuinely care about their community and jump at the opportunity to share their learning with those around them, especially when they can make a positive impact in their school as well. Throughout this project, students have shown growth of research skills, increased understanding of history and social change, and accountability for their educational institution and their community. This school can be proud of the excellence its students demonstrate on a daily basis.