UNION, NJ – Eighth-grade social studies students at Burnet Middle School showed their research exhibits at their Black History Month Museum this week for family, friends and peers.
Topics were chosen by students and teachers to align with state and federal standards. Some exhibits included information on education, female scientists, abolitionists, inventors, voting rights and school integration.
Burnet Middle School student Belicia said her exhibit was about Madam C. J. Walker, the first African American female self-made millionaire. “She had a dream of a black man telling her the ingredients she needed to make a mixture for hair potion for African Americans. At the time, it was really hard for African American business people to grow their business, so her story is very inspirational.”
About her exhibit on the Tulsa Race Riots, Brianna said, “this was basically a time when white mobs were attacking Black residents and their businesses,” said Brianna. “It was overall a horrible time.”
Burnet Middle School teacher Allison O’Neill-Sheahen said students worked in small groups, conducted research using databases and scholarly sources, and then synthesized that information into an original product. She said they created exhibits with interactive components, images and captions and quotes. “They did a phenomenal job,” said O’Neill-Sheahen. “They also learned how to work together, to persevere when things got difficult, and to analyze complex text.”
Isabella, Jason, Jeremy, Lauren and Samantha created a display about The Green Book written by Victor Hugo-Green. “I didn’t even know the Green Book existed,” said Lauren, “let alone what it was or how helpful it was.” “I didn’t really understand how hard it was to travel during this time period, so doing this project really helped me to see what African Americans had to go through during this time,” said Isabella.
Ai said she and her partner Anna were inspired to research historically Black schools because eighth graders are reading a book called “Warriors Don’t Cry”, about the Little Rock Nine integrating into Central High. “After the Civil War, some schools believed Blacks shouldn’t pursue their own education,” said Anna, “so Black colleges were made purposefully to protect Blacks while they received their education. After a while, they integrated.”
“This [project] meant a lot to me,” said Cassidy, “because she’s [Nelly] one of my best friends and I’ve learned why I’m able to go to school with her. It is so heartwarming because if she wasn’t in my life I don’t know what I’d do.”
Nelly said she was born in Africa, but “I get the opportunity to explore and meet new people. The same opportunities as everyone else to get an education and have a career.”