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Black History Month
FIS teacher goes back centuries to educate third-graders

Farragut Intermediate School third-grade teacher Holly Ellison saw an avenue to educate her students during Black History Month about influential discoveries, speeches and triumphs black people have accomplished for America throughought the centuries.

For years, Ellison has put together a booklet of about 30 influential black Americans, many from the 1800s during a time of slavery in America. “I want my kids to know it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, you can do great things,” Ellison said. “Everyone can overcome anything.”

She saw a need for her students to know that black people have accomplished much more than sports and music achievements. She chose to highlight people that drastically impacted the way Americans live, overcoming obstacles such as slavery.

Ellison spent January teaching about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, showing a presentation about what life would be like today without his leadership. Students then were asked to write their thoughts about the presentation and how different life would be without his peaceful influence.

“We studied, talked and saw how he solved problems peacefully and I try to relate that to how to treat others,” Ellison said.

Ellison was careful to tie the lessons into the curriculum. “In the reading program, the students learn sequencing, main idea, locating information,” she said.

Ellison said, it’s neat to see, “later, when a name is mentioned [from the packet], they’ll say, ‘we learned about that!’”

As soon as two of Ellison’s students and “best friends,” Sabel Mattingly and Diba Seddighi, opened their packets, the two began sharing what they had learned.

Sabel said, “George Washington Carver found out how to use peanuts in 325 different ways and 118 ways to use sweet potatoes.”

Sabel saw similarities in Phillis Wheatley and herself, “She was really smart and wrote poetry. I love poems,” she said.

“Matthew A. Henson was the first to go to the North Pole. If he didn’t go there, no one would know about Santa,” Sable added. “And, Jackie Robinson, a famous baseball player. My brother plays baseball so this interested me. He also served in World War I. He had one hard job and one big job.”

Diba said, “I really liked Madam C. J. Walker invented the hot iron comb and hair softener – we use those today. Harriet Tubman, I liked her because she helped slaves escape underground north to freedom on the underground railroad.

“Benjamin Banneker, he was really smart, a math wizard. He studied stars and constellations. He was so well known that president Washington asked him to help design Washington, D.C. he also wrote an almanac,” Diba added.

Diba enjoys opera and wants to see Washington, D.C., Marian Anderson’s story interested her. Anderson competed in a singing competition at age 17 “in New York and won. In 1939, she sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.”

Both girls said King was their favorite person they studied.

“Martin Luther King Jr. gave freedom to the blacks, to have equal rights with the whites,” Diba said.

Sabel said, “Yeah, he went through all this trouble, marching and going to jail for the marching so the black people could be free.”


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