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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Month offers historic insight

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Betty mcMIllen, a circulation clerk for the Sikeston Public Library, places sculpture in their display cases, where historic items are often kept.
SIKESTON -- When Haley Scherer was trying to figure out what to write her poem assignment on last November, it was civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks who popped into her head.

Once she finished, the Scott County Central third grader's couplet, or a poem with two lines that rhyme, went a little like this:

"Rosa Parks rode a bus. They would not let her sit with us. They took her to jail, and she made bail. Because she was brave enough to put up a fight -- Now all people have equal rights."

"It's not too often do we hear what our kids do in the bright aspects. We always hear the bad and the negative," noted Haley's teacher, Tonya Pobst. "This was something positive -- a bright moment in a student's life that could be shared with everyone. So I saved the poem for Black History Month."

Pobst's class had been talking about Parks during the time her students were learning about couplets, and obviously the lesson left an impression on Haley.

"I think she's kind of cool and made a difference," Haley said about why she wrote about Parks. "She did make a difference for blacks and whites and stuff."

While many students across the region and nation learn about African Americans throughout the school year, educators are placing emphasis on African Americans and their contributions in honor of Black History Month which ends Feb. 29.

For example, students in Rhonda Lewis' first grade class at Morehouse Elementary have been covering black inventors all month long.

From traffic signal inventor Garrett Morgan to Sarah Boone who created the ironing board and surgeon Charles Drew who came up with the idea of blood plasma, Lewis said her students really got excited about learning.

"They're response was, 'Oh, really!?! These are things that we use today,'" Lewis noted.

Of course Lewis and her class discussed whites only water fountains and restaurants and the Rosa Parks story.

"It's unthinkable to them," Lewis said. "They know we're all the same. We can eat wherever we want. They can't imagine anything like that existing."

Paul Lynch, principal at Martin Elementary in East Prairie, noted each teacher is free to decide what they want to teach during Black History Month.

For example, third graders are studying inventors using time lines while another class made booklets and discussed the civil rights movement.

Fifth graders are highlighting black leaders once a week and creating poems, and the sixth graders are making posters to identify leaders and studying poetry by Faith Rhinegold.

And character education programs many area schools have implemented in their curriculums are definitely come into play during Black History Month.

Tolerance is this month's character education word at Scott County Central, Pobst said.

"Whenever we do cover black history. Kids are really involved and pay attention," noted Pobst, who's been teaching for six years. "They say, 'I didn't realize back then black students couldn't go to school with white students.' It's really an exciting time for them to learn."

Morehouse Elementary's character education word this month is patience.

"It wasn't necessarily picked for Black History Month, but it can be incorporated in that black Americans showed patience in waiting and not acting in a hasty way," Lewis said.

Black History Month is a very informational time for students, Lynch noted.

"It's year-wide education," Lynch pointed out. "Black History Month is not just on black history, but on character itself. We teach students how to interact with individuals and appreciate others."