WEST ORANGE, NJ — Fifth-grade students at Mt. Pleasant and Kelly elementary schools in West Orange recently heard about the experiences of Anthony Lyons, a long-time West Orange resident who experienced the Civil Rights Movement first-hand in the 1960s, when he visited Mt. Pleasant.
The presentation capped off a significant day for the students, who first visited the MAYO Performing Arts Center in Morristown to see a dramatic performance recounting the life of Harriet Tubman.
Lyons arrived in the afternoon to grandson Christopher Perry Meredith's fifth-grade classroom, where teacher Wendy Japaz had a Google Hangout set up with Kelly fifth grade students and teachers.
"Providing the students with a primary source gave them an opportunity to listen to a real person's perspective of events and allowed them a chance to ask questions," said Japaz.
In addition to the Google Hangout, Mt. Pleasant and Kelly students also collaborated on a Padlet, where they shared their learning and reflected on their experience. Meredith performed two raps that he wrote as well that detailed what he learned about segregation and another one about how slavery began in America.
Like most students in the West Orange Public Schools district, Mt. Pleasant students have been working hard to celebrate Black History Month. The new year began with civil rights studies from pre-Civil War and up to the 1960s and the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"To honor Dr. King, our fifth-grade students visited all Mt. Pleasant classrooms to teach the younger students what they learned and the message behind Dr. King's Day of Service," said Japaz. "We decided to "Pay It Forward" by collecting donated books and writing kind messages in them. These books will be donated to local laundromats for children to enjoy…It was a wonderful day for all."