“I think it’s important for our kids to know comprehensive Black history,” Detroit Merit Principal Sandra Martin said. “Our kids know all about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., but we wanted to offer them some context to their learning. We wanted to offer them more than just learning about prominent historical figures, so we’re teaching them about the culture as well.”
That included introducing scholars to stories about Black inventors, astronauts, and children who made a difference as well. Classes were able to pick what they wanted to focus on for their door designs, with much of the middle school focusing on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
“It gave people a little more input, which makes them a little more invested in it, gives them a little more passion behind it,” Martin said.
The effort showed. Teachers and classes worked together to create elaborate displays that expanded out from doorways into the halls at Merit, which has outperformed the local district for 13 years.
Scholars were encouraged to add comments on their sheets as they searched for the different doors. They noted their feelings when reading the information, how they connected with it, and what else they wondered about it.
One of Martin’s favorite doors was that of first grade teacher Annette Wojciechowski, which focused on artist Alma Thomas, a famous abstract painter. The door featured a photo of Thomas with information about her artwork and life and was surrounded by ripped-paper mosaics by Wojciechowski’s students, patterned on Thomas’ work.
“Just look at the care some of these kids took on these mosaics!” Martin said. “These are first graders! This is beautiful!”
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Detroit Merit Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Detroit, Michigan, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 95 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.
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