This February, in honour of #BlackHistoryMonth365, our school store has created a collection to highlight books and products – already in our catalogue – that showcase black characters and stories, and celebrate our many languages and differences.
It’s a small beginning, but part of a continuous effort alongside our Faculty who are celebrating lives lived, achievements and black excellence in our classroom lessons – throughout February, and year long.
View our entire Black History Month Collection, including this Caldecott Medal winner (available for purchase).
In the Waldorf Classroom: How We’re Celebrating Black History and Achievement
Grades 1 & 2: Engaging with the BIPOC community
Ms Colby and Ms Fitzpatrick are in consultation with local bookstore A Different Booklist to curate book recommendations for Grade 1 and 2! In addition to sharing African songs from Ghana, and stories of Black inventors from around the world, our teachers have also connected with the Founder of Ed Ucation – an Aboriginal group of educators from the Cree nation (THANK YOU to our class parent for this introduction!). We will continue to weave and plan meaningful connections for the class all year!
Grades 3 & 4: An excerpt from a “closing block” communication to parents
The Human and Animal Block is an opportunity to begin to cultivate questions about humanity… and the interconnectedness of all things…. We create so many wondrous things and yet we also create war. It is in this context of human possibility that the children gradually begin to understand what is needed from them as stewards of the earth, and as fellow human beings.
This main lesson block intersected rather fortuitously with a parent-son exchange that was shared with me midweek. On a neighbourhood walk, the child asked about the “Black Lives Matter” signage that had become so prominent in recent months.
Such questions are in fact characteristic of the deeper developmental purpose of the Human and Animal Block, as children of this age begin to appreciate that the world is not perfect.
Issues that plague the world from animal cruelty to racism come to the fore organically and are progressively addressed through curricular stories and explicit conversations. Our broader DEI work in the faculty, and in the Waldorf movement as a whole, enriches our own undertesting of the deep forces needed to repair, renew and cultivate a universal consciousness. (Vivien Carrady, class teacher)
Grade 5: Novel Study – We are reading The Watsons Go To Birmingham.
This will be our novel study for February and March. This book won a number of prestigious children’s book awards. The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 is a story about race. The narrator, Kenny, and the reader are barely aware of much racial tension in Flint, a northern city. (Kenny’s educated father has a fine job at an automobile plant.) But life for African-Americans is different in the South.
I am looking forward to our class discussions about race, bullying, family support, friendship, hope and courage. (Tammi Gerrard, class teacher)
Grade 6: Talking about race
Each morning we have been bringing an offering to spark dialogue about blackness with the intention of promoting empathetic dialogue about the injustices that have existed and continue to exist for black people. So far, we have watched videos about Harriet Tubman and James Baldwin, read a picture book about Africville and articles from CBC Kids News: the first about the N-word, and the second about a young black girl’s experience learning to love and embrace her curly hair. We will continue to engage students with quotes, articles, fictional stories and autobiographical stories that celebrate the achievements of well-known black Canadians, as well as stories that bring the experiences of everyday black folks to the forefront. (Ms Grainger and Ms Hagon, class teachers)
Grade 7/8: Community guests share their story.
Ms. Hilts’ partner Erin Ladd virtually visited the class to launch our awareness and work for Black History Month. Erin is a mixed-race person and she was able to share the story of her father’s lineage. We followed family member’s stories through slavery in Virginia and Kentucky and their journey to freedom via the Underground Railroad to a Black settlement in South-Western Ontario in Dresden. Erin also talked about how Dresden was a “hot-spot” for Canadian Black Civil Rights and how her Great-Uncle Alvin, along with Hugh Burnett and the strength of the National Unity Association (NUA), brought about anti-discrimination laws. The NUA set the groundwork for provincial legislation and what we now know today as the Ontario Human Rights Code. The over-arching message from her presentation this morning was how small people can make big differences:
“Change is less like taking apart an engine to fix the problem, and more like placing one pebble at a time into a steady stream and slowly redirecting the flow.” This is one example of activities taking place in grades 7/8. (Ms Hilts and Ms Moffit, class teachers)
This annual conference is a favourite amongst Waldorf early childhood educators and this year’s main topic was: TOWARD A KINDER, MORE COMPASSIONATE SOCIETY: Black Lives Matter in Waldorf Early Childhood Classrooms and Communities with keynote speaker Laleña Garcia. We look forward to deepening our striving as kindergarten teachers to subvert the systemic racism that even young children absorb from the world around them. (Ms Ciepielewski, Ms Pasatir, Ms Lennox, Ms Nguyen, Ms McLean, Ms Young – Waldorf Kindergarten team)
Not sure of the terminology? Learn more:
- Keynote Speaker at the WECAN Conference: Laleña Garcia – https://www.rootedkids.org/
- Waldorf Academy School Store: our collections and more
- Explore Toronto Museums: Awakenings
- 20 Picture Books for 2020: Readings to Embrace Race, Provide Solace & Do Good
- How to talk about race with the young child: Sow Well Tots
- Young Adult Books by Black Authors: Epic
- African-Canadian owned bookstore showcasing the literature of the African and Caribbean diaspora, the Global South all the major publishers and independents
- Toronto Public Library: Black History Month and Lunar New Years Books for Kids
- Aga Khan Museum: From Africa: a musical celebration for Black History Month