Ellis Celebrates Black History Month

During the month of February, The Ellis School celebrated Black History Month by promoting inclusion, embracing diversity, and applauding the achievements of African Americans. Ellis faculty worked with Ciera Young, Coordinator of Equity and Inclusion, to provide learning and engagement opportunities for Ellis students across all three divisions throughout the month.
In the Lower School, students learned to appreciate their differences and commonalities through group discussions, developmentally-appropriate literature, and service learning opportunities. Pre-kindergaten through grade 4 gathered to listen to Second Grade Teacher, Denise LaRosa, read her book Empty Shoes as part of the first African American Read-In at Ellis. The Read-In promoted diversity in children’s literature and encouraged young people to read African American authors. Afterwards, students paired up with buddy classes to read books written and illustrated by African American authors and illustrators.

In the Middle School, English and history curricula aligned as students learned about the United States from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement. Grades 5 and 6 read books on the Great Depression and segregation, and engaged in meaningful conversation and rich discussion about racism and the economy. In grade 7, students read slave narratives and wrote essays from the perspective of an abolitionist and conductor on the Underground Railroad. Grade 8 completed and presented Civil Rights projects that required students to research key figures during the time period of Brown vs. Board of Education to the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

In the Upper School, programming highlighted the African-American community in Pittsburgh, across the nation, and around the globe. Students volunteered and presented workshops at the Summit Against Racism and the MLK Day Celebration at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. They participated in an East Liberty Oral History Project sponsored by the Urban League Young Professionals, and members of Sisterhood participated in a Public Source multimedia project titled “ I Am a Black Girl And...”  that collected stories of Black women and girls ages 13-23 throughout the city of Pittsburgh.

The Ellis community pursues, supports, and embraces diversity of all kinds, recognizing the collective strength derived from individual differences. This year, Ellis brought in diverse and engaging assembly speakers and performers to support conversation and discussion around diversity. Chaz Kellem, YWCA Senior Director for Advocacy for Race and Gender Equity, spoke to students about disability awareness and advocacy. Hammerstep, a globally recognized dance collective that fuses Irish river dancing and hip-hop, showed students the importance of cross-cultural collaboration as they performed and held dance workshops for the Middle School.

1Hood, a collective of socially conscious artists and activists, hosted a workshop on media literacy while teaching students about the power of music as a form of expression and racial disparities in Pittsburgh. Ashley Dotson, Dean of Students, and Ms. Young developed a lesson plan to accompany the workshop that focused on the African-American experience in local communities of East Liberty, Larimer, and Homewood.

All three divisions are committed to incorporating diversity and inclusion into the academic program. Students in all grades at Ellis develop an ability to think abstractly, tackle controversial issues with sensitivity, and engage in civil and respectful discourse throughout the course of the year. As an inclusive community, The Ellis School is committed to promoting equity, respecting and honoring differences, and affirming and embracing similarities.
Ellis Social Media Shares for Black History Month: