South Orangetown Central School District

Amplifying student voice has been a shared priority among South Orangetown schools for some time. Throughout this school year, District communications are highlighting the various avenues through which our students are taking on leadership roles to enhance programming, operations and school culture.

Lawanda Lane’s fifth-grade class presented Cottage Lane Elementary School’s virtual, school-wide character education ceremony this morning. “Communities Show Persistence” is the character education theme of the month and students introduced “Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah,” CLE’s book of the month, which celebrates triumph over adversity and Yeboah’s powerful message that disability does not mean inability.

Lane’s students also presented on the history and purpose of Black History Month, which correlates to a “History Makers” research project that students participate in throughout the year. Students created “Certificates of Appreciation,” displayed outside their classroom, for the individuals they studied.

Alice Y. enjoyed learning about Christopher Paul Curtis, a Newbury Medal-winning author and Brooke G. discovered historian and author Carter G. Woodson, who is credited as the founder of Black History Month. John A. studied Edward Brooke, the first black Senator elected by the people and first black politician from Massachusetts to serve in Congress. Choreographer and dancer Katherine Dunham inspired Mika V. and Cole M. was interested to learn that singer, musician and actor Nat King Cole became the first Black host of a television variety show in the 1950s.

The project gave some students the opportunity to dig deeper into the backgrounds of well-known historical figures. “I learned more about Rosa Parks, not only about her part in the bus boycott, but also that one of her parents was a teacher and what her life was like growing up,” explained Evan G.

In fact, all of Lane’s students were eager to share their new-found knowledge. “They learned about new people and really enjoyed doing the research,” Lane noted. “It is important to express appreciation for these individuals and what they’ve contributed to our history.”

Each month, CLE classes partner with Elementary School Counselor Stephanie Mueller to develop monthly assemblies, which provide students with the opportunity to interpret the school’s character education program from their perspectives. There is a standard framework of components–theme, book of the month, activity and song(s)–and each class makes the event their own.

“It’s a great way to bring our school community together,” said Assistant Principal Rob Schliessman.

Lawanda Lane's fifth-grade students