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Black History Month

February 24, 2021 | Nathan Johnson

The Goals:

  1. To offers an opportunity to celebrate the unique contributions of Black Americans to our nation’s life and culture.
  2. To tell stories that help us remember the struggle for equality that underscore the history of African American citizens in our nation.

 

Upon reading this, one might think:

That first one sounds lovely and good, but isn’t the second one a little heavy for three-year-olds? 

… In fact, isn’t it a bit early to be talking about race?

We have all heard the pervasive myth that children are these pure, blank slates who cannot develop racial prejudices unless they are explicitly taught to do so. We celebrate how children are, as many claim, “color-blind,” so why should we shatter this idyllic state by talking to them about race? In our love for our children, and perhaps in our fear of ourselves, we think them too young, too confused, and too innocent for such conversation. But we are learning more and more that science simply does not back this up. In fact, all the research points to the exact opposite.

In a 2005 study published in Developmental Science, we see that by the age of three months, children are showing a significant preference for faces from their own race.

With this knowledge, it only makes sense that not only is it important to talk about race, but (as explained in many studies like this) that children benefit from an upbringing where they are surrounded by many colors.

Being the artist that God is, we have so much color to celebrate. Mustard Seed’s preschool is delighted to take this month to be exploring the lives of some amazing Black Americans.

Louis Armstrong,  Mae Jemison,  George Washington Carver  &  Faith Ringgold!

One of the things that we noticed while researching them was how interdisciplinary their experiences were and are. How they engaged their whole selves in the experience of life and learning and expression.  This is something we celebrated in our hope to educate the whole child in an interdisciplinary way. Here is a short clip of  Dr. Mae C. Jemison talking about how the arts and sciences are more than just two sides of the same coin.

Here are some of the ways we have been exploring these amazing people in the Rivers Class…

Week 1: Louis Armstrong
Trumpeter, composer, vocalist, and actor

“Music is life itself. What would this world be without good music?”

The children listened to stories about how Louis grew up playing trumpet and worked hard to do something he loved. They learned that even though many sad things happened to him, Louis focused on “what a wonderful world” God has given us…

And they loved the pictures of his trumpet!

In worship, we were in the middle of two weeks of stories about Moses – and Louis Armstrong sang a song about Moses!

The children learned the echo part of the song, watched him perform it with his band, and, of course, we couldn’t keep our bodies from moving!

“Dance like this. See?”

– Rodrigo

And his music introduced them to many different instruments.

 

Ms. Buckley played a guessing game to help them learn their names!

 

“Trumpet!”

– Rebekah

Week 2: Dr. Mae Jemison
Physician, astronaut, dancer

… and first African American woman in space!

“Some people say they feel very small when they think about space.

I felt more expansive, very connected to the universe.”

After meeting her picture and hearing a bit about her in our morning meeting, the children had their own countdown at snack time. We yelled “Blast off!” and cheered as we watched footage of her spaceship taking off and shooting into space…

“Up! Up! Up!”

cried Maddox as we all watched the spaceship fly higher and higher until it was a tiny dot.

The children completed a collaborative painting inspired by their research in books, and by the Starry Night paintings that the Kindergarten had made…

“(Gasps) Look at her floating!”

– Thomas

“It’s because she’s up in space! In space, you float because there’s no …  you can’t fall down!”

– Charlie

 

In one of the stories we read about Mae Jemison, we learned that she shared her dream to go to space at school. But her teacher was not encouraging!  This discouraged her until her mother said,

“If you dream it, believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible.”

“Her Mommy said a nice thing … Like my Mommy.”

– Lena

Week 3: Dr. George Washington Carver,

Botanist and painter

“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour if we will only tune in.”

The children were greeted on Monday with many different plants in the classroom, and we read about Washington Carver in our opening meeting.

We learned that he was a scientist who helped keep the soil healthy for plants, helped keep bugs off plants, and found many, many uses for peanuts, which most people only fed to pigs!

We also learned that he went to school for art and loved to paint plants and flowers as well…

Inspired by his life, the children painted some of our classroom’s plants …

Now the children are noticing plants everywhere!

In the story at the end of the day, the children heard that he was able to do so many amazing things even though he started his life as an enslaved person, and had to grow up without his Mom who was stolen by robbers who kidnapped enslaved people.

“Why did someone steal his Mommy!?

That’s not nice to do.”

– John

 

Think about those initial goals stated up top — The children are not only learning about the contribution and struggle of the African American experience, but also the beauty and excitement that these individuals have brought to our world!

Stay tuned! Today we started to study …

Week 4: Faith Ringgold

Artist and activist

“You can’t sit around waiting for somebody else to say who you are. You need to paint it and write it and do it.  That’s where the art comes from. It’s a visual image of who you are. “

… I wonder how the children will be inspired?

Nathan Johnson

Rivers Class Assistant Teacher & Lower School Visual Art Teacher

Nathan Johnson graduated in 2004 from Lenoir-Rhyne University with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts (focusing on Illustration, Art History, and Puppetry), Theatre, and Elementary Education, followed by further time in Europe studying Art, and in Nova Scotia working with adults with developmental differences.

Happily back at his Alma mater (MSS class of 1995) Nathan has passionately committed his career to preserving the dignity and wonder of childhood. As children are more and more burdened with technology and privilege, he believes that in order for children to learn and grow, they must be given freedom within structure, choices with guidance, allowed to play, struggle, get dirty, and above all, for each child to be taught that they are a beloved child of God.

When not in the classroom, Nathan can be found kayaking, camping, hosting a game night, wandering around New York City, making friends with strangers, and spending time with his 11 nieces and nephews.

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