Shelton school offers inclusive instruction with Black History Month program

Elizabeth Shelton School is holding a program, Black History Is No Secret at ESS, for Black History Month. The program features the return of the popular front hallway display recognizing famous African Americans in history.

Elizabeth Shelton School is holding a program, Black History Is No Secret at ESS, for Black History Month. The program features the return of the popular front hallway display recognizing famous African Americans in history.

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SHELTON — Displays and multimedia collections are strewn throughout Elizabeth Shelton School, all highlighting notable African Americans and their contributions for Black History Month.

But school TESOL teacher Christine Butler hopes the program — titled Black History Is No Secret at ESS — will spark students’ interest in the topic for more than just the 28 days of February.

“The goal of these projects is to light the spark of inspiration in our students,” Butler said. “We want their fascination and their desire to explore, research and learn about African Americans to reach far beyond the month of February.

“We want to ignite in them the desire to know about other races, ethnicities and languages, too,” Butler added. “The ultimate goal is for students to appreciate the similarities among people but realize that our differences can be used to make a difference.”

Black History Is No Secret at ESS is a three-pronged program, according to Butler, highlighted by the return of the popular front hallway display.

“A curtain is hung on which each day of the week clues are displayed and announced,” Butler said. “Notable African American people are pictured all over the display. At week's end, the big reveal happens, the curtain is lifted and the person matching the clues is celebrated.”

Butler said the display has captivated the attention of kindergartners through fourth graders and staff alike.

“It becomes a focal point of the school and starts a variety of conversations among the school community because, I think, of our basic human need to connect,” Butler said. “Everyone, past and present, has a story, and students want to know those stories.”

Students can be seen talking in the hallways as they pass a display, asking each other questions or making comments about what they learned, she said.

Beyond the front hallway display is the school’s "museum" display that changes daily and features African American people and their contributions to the world.

Mirrors are positioned right near each person with the question, “How are YOU like ____?” or “How are YOU different from___?”

“Students are drawn to it because they can quite literally see themselves in other people,” Butler said. “It brings these famous people to life in a more purposeful and practical way. They become more than just a picture on a poster or a person that lived long ago and did good things.”

Butler said students learn about the influential people through discussion, lessons, read alouds, videos and projects.

The individuals who are displayed are varied in their contributions, work and strengths: Students learn about musicians, athletes, inventors, community workers like sanitation workers and firefighters, dancers and others who worked to make change where and when needed, she said.

Butler also created a Black History Month Collection for the school's K-4 Google classrooms.

With the click of a button, students can watch videos about Black history's evolution, African pottery, dance and biographies of Black individuals and their contributions to the world.

In collaboration with the specialists at ESS, Butler regularly posts read alouds of a biography of each educator's choosing. The chosen book connects in some way to their discipline, their work or their individual interests, she said.

Throughout the month, Butler said a read aloud is “dropped” into the collection and students can watch teachers from their own school read and describe how they have been inspired by each notable individual.

“(Students) relate to other people's struggles and triumphs no matter if they are the same or different from their own,” Butler added. “They are fascinated by other countries, cultures and ways of life.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com