Activities include a featured book, a poster competition where students research famous African-Americans and a celebration of Historically Black Colleges and Universities week.
“I think it’s an important celebration that students and staff will enjoy but also will learn from and feel a part of,” said Jeff Nash, spokesperson for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
Courtney Sears, a second grade teacher at Ephesus, said the entire school will read a featured book — “Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions” by Chris Barton.
“It highlights the gentleman who invented the super soaker water gun — his name is Lonnie Johnson,” said Ephesus Elementary Assistant Principal Danielle Sutton. “It’s a book about the process he used to create his invention and how it became a national phenomenon.”
Sears said Ephesus Elementary focuses on the STEAM fields — science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics — and the chosen book specifically shows an African-American in the STEAM fields.
This year’s theme is ‘STrEAM of Black History Month’ — a play on water guns, Sutton said.
“The book talks a lot about perseverance and believing in yourself, so we felt like he was a good role model for the kids and tied it to the work we do to encourage kids in the areas of STEAM,” Sears said.
After all of the classes have a chance to read the book, the art teacher will then do a project with the children on designing a book cover about themselves and what they would invent, Sears said.
“We also will have the African-American read-in, and it’s actually a national initiative,” Sutton said. “We gather texts written, illustrated by and featuring characters of color, and then we invite community members to come in and sign up for slots to read to classes.”
Sutton said past readers have included firefighters, police and the mayor.
Every Monday morning there will also be a message dedicated to local African-Americans who contribute to the STEAM fields, Sutton said.
“Some of the people that we are highlighting this year are Philip Freelon — he’s the architect who created the design for the (National Museum of African American History and Culture) in D.C. — and Dr. Elaine Hart-Brothers, she’s a physician at Duke,” Sutton said. “We’re looking at people who are relevant but also are local and contributing to our society.”
Sutton said the school recently had a staff outing to see the film, “Hidden Figures,” which showed why it’s important to highlight the accomplishments of African-Americans.
“It was a great experience for so many different reasons, but I think the whole purpose of the movie — even the title ‘Hidden Figures’ — is that there are so many contributions that black Americans make every day, every month, every year to American history, and it is often overlooked,” Sutton said.