Nursery, Preps, Juniors and Black History Month

A wealth of inspiration.

On the website of Black History Month, Catherine Ross, Founder Director of Museumand – The National Caribbean Heritage Museum and Editor of Black History Month 2020 writes:

‘Black History Month 2020 is also a time to look forward and celebrate the here and now – and the future possibilities. In years gone by, October has been the only time of year when the UK talks about the achievements of Black people in Britain. Hopefully, the events of 2020 will be a catalyst for Black history to be shared much more widely – in museums, galleries, schools, universities, public spaces and communities.’

As we reach the middle of Black History Month we look at how the Nursery, Preps and Juniors have taken Black History Month to heart and have produced some wonderful and creative work.  But, it is important to remember that this work is embedded in what we do here at St Augustine’s Priory.  As Miss Keane, Deputy Head Juniors (Academic) says, ‘I feel that it is essential that this is not seen as a token gesture and that our commitment to curriculum diversity is ongoing. With this in mind, I will be carrying out an audit of books to ensure that class libraries, the Junior Library and core texts used in classes reflect a wide range of cultures and races and well as gender role models to ensure that all girls can find people in books – both fiction and non-fiction- that they identify with.’

She goes on to say, ‘We have had many wonderful outcomes from our work on Black History Month in the Junior School – plenty which has been pupil-led, and there is much to celebrate.  We will be entering girls from Prep II to Upper II in the wonderful poetry competition being held by English Heritage after half term.’  ‘Untold Stories’ is, as English Heritage says, ‘Your chance to explore your own heritage through poetry.  To tell the stories that get left out of the history books and put your voice at the centre of England’s story.’’

In the Nursery there is a beautiful display of books and pictures and artefacts and the children have been listening to music from Louis Armstrong and playing the instruments they can hear in his music.  Prep I have continued the musical theme by learning about Bob Marley and enjoying his music.

Prep II, meanwhile, have been learning about Wangari Maathai, the social, environmental and political activist, who was the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  She was awarded it in 2004 for her ‘contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace’.  Prep II have linked this to their Geography work on Kenya (Ms Maathai was Kenyan) and Little Languages and have also produced pictures of her.

The girls in Prep III have focussed on learning about Mary Seacole, who worked as a nurse during the Crimean War.  She applied to be included among the nurses officially being sent out to the Crimea,  but was refused, and so she travelled independently and tended brilliantly to the battlefield wounded.  Prep III have also been doing role-play and book reviews.

In Lower I, Rosa Parks has been the focus of research.  In December 1955 Ms Parks refused to relinquish her seat on a bus to a white person, after the whites-only section was filled.  She collaborated with civil rights leaders, included Martin Luther King Jr, and was an American activist in the civil rights movement.  Each child in Lower I has prepared a presentation using slides, books or pictures about inspirational black people during Form Time.

Upper I have also been learning about an inspirational woman, former First Lady of the U.S.A., Michelle Obama, and have listened to her TED talk about empowering women, which was followed by discussion and role-play.

In their research for the Prep II Assembly, Lower IIA focused on the life and times of Mae Jemison, American engineer, physician and former NASA astronaut.  She was the first black woman to travel into space, aboard the Space Shuttle, ‘Endeavour’. They researched who she is and put together their own Google slide presentation which explored the incredible achievements of her life so far.  Lower IIA also carried out a class activity which explored key influential figures such as President Barack Obama, Rosa Parks and Muhammad Ali.

In Lower II Alpha, Noor put together a presentation on President Nelson Mandela of South Africa.  She shared this with the class and they all discussed his work around equality.  Lower II have also been watching Newsround regularly and have been discussing the news relating to Black History Month.  Bernadette in Lower II Alpha brought in a book on key figures in black history who have advocated for change.  She shared some stories, for example on Rosa Parks, and the class discussed key terminology and the role that Ms Parks played in bringing about change.  From this Lower II Alpha also explored the life of Claudette Colvin, who is a retired nurse and a pioneer of the 1950s civil rights movement who, at the age of 15 years old, was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat to a white woman on a crowded bus.

During their Form Time, the girls have been introduced to Martin Luther King Jr, specifically, who he was, what he did to bring about change in equality laws, and the impact that his work and campaigning has had since then. As part of this, we watched, and discussed his ‘I have a Dream’ speech.

In Miss Cooke’s extra-curricular club, Parliamentary Priory, the girls have been working on a shared Google slide on which they have researched the eighteenth century writer and abolitionist, Olaudah Equiano, and Mary Prince, abolitionist and autobiographer, who spearheaded change in equality laws across the world. The girls have been making notes on these individuals, and answering key questions during the sessions. This culminated in the girls answering the question ‘Why is it important that equality legislation (laws) exists today?’ and sharing their ideas as a group.

In Upper IIA the girls have been researching Marcus Rashford, the Manchester United and England footballer, who set up the Child Food Poverty Task Force in an attempt to tackle child food poverty and has been awarded the MBE for services to vulnerable children in the UK during the coronavirus epidemic.  They have also been discussing inspirational figures such as Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela (the inspirational anti-apartheid leader and former President of South Africa) and Harriet Tubman, who was born into slavery around 1822 and was an American abolitionist and political activist.  She escaped slavery and thereafter rescued enslaved people using the Underground Railroad, the network of antislavery activists and safe houses.  She was also an activist in the movement for women’s suffrage.  This work has been achieved during Form Time, using videos from BBC Teach.  In addition, this week Upper IIA are looking at Black musicians, and listening to some of their music. 

Katherine Johnson has been the focus for Upper II Alpha.  This brilliant mathematician worked at NASA and contributed enormously to the success of the U.S. spaceflights from the 1950s to the late  1980s with her mastery of complex mathematical calculations.   Discussing the role of women as mathematicians has been an essential part of this research for Upper II Alpha.

A range of inspiring activities has been the centre of life here at St Augustine’s Priory, something which is embedded and ongoing.