South Orangetown Central School District

Anne O’Brien teaches science and math, but throughout February, she’s built time into the daily schedule to celebrate Black History Month. “We’re talking about movers and changers in history. I want my students to be exposed to the people and events that have had an impact on the development of our country. Our students will be the future citizens and leaders of our world and it is important that they learn about the different events and perspectives that make up our communities,” she said.

Last Thursday, O’Brien’s fifth-grade students collaborated on organizing a “Growing American Timeline” by researching people and events and placing them in chronological order and including events in the history of Blacks Americans in our historical landscape. Learning the sequence of historical events helps students visualize that there is an order in which events occur and that order has led to the world we live in today–and the world as it will be in the future.

As they worked, students were surprised to discover the timing of events they thought they were familiar with.

“I didn’t realize that Native Americans arrived here 20,000 years ago. It makes me wonder about what their lives were like then,” Kyle reflected.

“I thought Jackie Robinson entered Major League Baseball in the 1960s, after Martin Luther King, Jr.,” said Kellen.

“I was surprised to learn about Black men earning the right to vote in 1870. I knew that everyone didn’t have the right to vote at the same time, but I didn’t realize how separated it was and how long it took for everyone to be able to vote,” Charlotte explained.

Several students were astonished to discover that the Civil Rights Movement is relatively recent history. “Martin Luther King, Jr. was fighting for the rights of all people and was only 39 when he died. He could have still been alive today; he would be 92.”

Student viewing webpage about 14th and 15th amendments