February - week 3
This week, we share units from Pinewood’s Elementary and Secondary classes that focus on Black history and culture in the United States. We are so proud of the work that our teachers are doing to teach about diverse perspectives and challenging themes.
Fiona Gillies says about teaching black history through art, “Representing voices other than the white male gaze regarding art is a definite passion of mine, and many other art teachers.” Ms. Fiona is teaching a Faith Ringgold project with Grade 4 students at the moment. Faith Ringgold is an American artist from Harlem who is best known for her narrative quilt art.
Groovin' High, 1996
In January, Ms. Erin Trotter and Ms. Karen Georgacacos and their Grade 5 students studied black history through their non-fiction reading unit. Students researched black Americans in order to learn about important themes related to race relations, civil rights, and equality. At the same time, students practice valuable, transferable skills such as text features, note taking, and identifying key ideas to complete the research process.
With their research, students create a visual report to highlight the life and achievements of a famous black American of their choice. Here are the individuals that our students chose to research: Michael Jordan, Barack Obama, Rosa Parks, Mohammad Ali, Martin Luther King Jr., Simon Biles, Gabby Douglas, Lizzo, Arthur Andersen, Jackie Robinson, Booker T. Washington, Niel DeGrasse Tyson, Dwayne Douglas Johnson, James Meredith, and Harriet Tubman.
In September & October, Dr. Linda Manney and her Grade 10A students read The Piano Lesson, by August Wilson.
In preparation for reading and writing about the African-American experience, students watched and wrote about two videos on The Great Migration. We encourage you to watch them, too.
History Brief: The Great Migration (4 minutes)
Students also watched videos of the work of Black artists who gained prominence during the Black Arts Movement of the 1960’s, such as Alvin Ailey and Aretha Franklin, and they talked about how August Wilson was influenced by the Black Arts Movement.
After reading the play, students engage in a creative writing project based on important themes in The Piano Lesson, by August Wilson, wherein they are required to speak in the voice of one character from the play.
Finally, students write a research essay which focused on a topic related to the sociocultural context of the play, The Piano Lesson. Among other things, students learn that African American Vernacular English is NOT incorrect English, but is instead a recognized dialect of modern English, with roots in plantation creoles. This is one example of the important lessons that are learned during this unit.
Ms. Amalia Spiliakou and her middle school Art through the Ages II students travel outside the United States to study Belle, a period drama film set in the 18th century and inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy admiral. The film revolves around the Zong Massacre of 1781 that led to the Slave Trade Act 1807, which abolished British participation in the African slave trade.
After watching the film, students study the painting about which the film was inspired. This 1779 painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle beside her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, at Kenwood House, was commissioned by their great-uncle, William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, Lord Chief Justice of England.
David Martin, 1737 – 1797
Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and Lady Elizabeth
Murray, 1778, oil on canvas, Scone Palace, Scotland