Teachers at Sallie Cone Preschool worked together as a unit to bring a new display to the school for Black History Month in February.
The idea originated with Jaquelyne Camper who took it to preschool teacher Paris Broyles.
“What [Camper] wanted to do was show African Americans and the contributions they made to society,” Broyles said.
Broyles said she was excited for it and thought it would be a good addition to incorporate the rest of the school; each class had to choose and then research an African-American figure.
The projects were then placed on the stage in the school’s cafeteria and classes were able to tour the displays Thursday.
“We just wanted to bring light to African Americans,” Broyles said.
Last year, she was able to bring African American sculptor Brian Massey to the school to talk with her class and the students enjoyed hearing his story and holding works that he had produced.
“I thought [the display] was something that would be more concrete that [the students] could actually see,” she said.
Camper said she was always told, “you have to learn your history first before you learn anybody else’s.”
“I am excited about the way the exhibit turned out,” she said.
Camper said when she was a student at an all-black school, there were so many things she learned out of the textbook and encouraged others to get out there and take advantage of the people that have come before them and their history; she said history is for all of us.
Both Camper and Broyles talked about how there were many important figures out there that even they didn’t know about before the project like George Crum, who invented the potato chip in 1853, Garrett Morgan, who invented one of the first traffic lights, and Lonnie Johnson, who invented the Super Soaker water gun.
“We have so many things around us that we’re using that we didn’t even know where they came from,” Camper said.
She said the reason she wanted to do the project was to encourage everyone to learn about their history and where they came from and not only encourage the children to dream big, but also to help them find a starting point.
Broyles, who is the only African-American teacher at the school, said teaching children at this age is so important because they’re like sponges -- they soak everything up.
“If they see as a presence at this young age, I think it can catapult them to different things that they want to do,” she said.
Camper said it’s important to point out African American accomplishments like President Barack Obama and other leaders.
“We can do something, just gotta’ get that chance to have it and I tell these kids everyday that you can be anything you wanna’ be but you gotta’ strive for it,” she said.
Broyles said Black History Month — which she teaches about year round — is important for her because she gets to celebrate her heritage and express her culture with her students and others around her, but it’s equally as important to learn about other cultures as well.
For that reason, she said, she’s considering doing a Cinco de Mayo type of lesson as well.
“I feel like other cultures need to be expressed as well,” Broyles said. “The United States is a big melting pot. You have so many different cultures and values and morals.”
She said it’s all about respect: respecting the differences and respecting that we’re all in this space for a reason.
Broyles said the response from the teachers and parents have been positive and the students are responding and understanding the lesson by asking questions.
That support aspect, she said, was the most impactful part of the whole experience.