Pleasantville's South Main Street School presented its own version of "An African American Museum" as the school culminated its monthlong Black History Celebration on Feb. 28 with student-run presentations, exhibits and even a souvenir shop.
This year's theme was "People Who Have Made a Difference and You Can Make a Difference Too," and students in the kindergarten through fifth-grade facility showcased exhibits highlighting the achievements of black educators, politicians, scientists, musicians, athletes and civil rights leaders.
Third grade teacher Delnora Rowell, who helped coordinate the event, said it was decided that an open museum format was the best way to present the exhibits both to the student body and to the public.
"Our black history celebration was always one of the highlights of the year for students," she explained during a tour. "We thought this was a good way for everyone to participate and to bring the community in on it."
Throughout the day, different time slots were designated as visitors went from classroom to classroom to view the exhibits and listen to presentations.
Each grade celebrated a different facet of black history, Rowell explained. Kindergarten focused on civil rights, first grade on sports, second grade on music, third grade on inventors, fourth grade on historically black colleges and fifth grade on education and global and community influences.
One of the school's main hallways also was turned into an art gallery for the day featuring student masterpieces and drawings by fifth-grade teacher Christopher Smith.
Art teacher Cindy Verderber, who has been at the school for two years, said students worked on their pieces for the past month and were proud to see them displayed.
The event made for an exciting day at the school.
Third grade teachers Jill Butterhoff and Jennifer Martinez said students worked in groups for two weeks researching and preparing their projects.
Christofer Evangelista, 9, worked with his classmates on the presentation of Benjamin Banneker, a surveyor, almanac author and farmer who lived from 1731 to 1806.
"I learned a lot of things about him," said the third grader. "I read about his life and all the things he did."
Joerik Velez, 8, was part of the group presenting inventor Garrett Morgan, whose most notable contribution was the invention of the traffic signal.
"I thought he was very smart, and I'm glad I learned about him," Velez said after his presentation.
Marguerite Nammour, 9, made a display of the solar system to accompany her group's project about Dr. Mae Jemison, the first black woman astronaut.
Nammour, who listed science as one of her favorite subjects, said she thought Jemison was really interesting and accomplished a lot in her field.
Across the hall in Eugene Croff's third-grade classroom, Luz Alvarado and Kevin Madrid, both 9, were part of the group presenting the life of Lewis Latimer, the child of fugitive slaves who went on to help patent the light bulb and the telephone. The students said they had fun working on their project.
The souvenir shop set up in the school library featured student and teacher made items such as beaded bracelets, necklaces, keychains and knitted scarves. Proceeds from sales will benefit the Children's Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation in memory of Jesse Haussling, a teacher who died at age 33 in 2011.
For more information about donating to the fund, contact the school at 609-383-6895.
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