Calvert Boys and Girls Celebrate Diversity, Identity During Black History Month

Calvert boys and girls across both divisions learned about Black activists, authors, performing artists, and more this February in honor of Black History Month. Throughout the month, students participated in discussions of diversity and identity while celebrating African-American achievement.
Eighth Age teacher Ashley Barnett coordinated Black History Month activities in the Lower School and said that this year’s offerings focused on Black performing artists. Each day, the Lower School highlighted a notable figure with fun facts, coloring pages, videos, and more.
“Everyone must understand that Black History did not begin at the water’s edge in slave ships coming to the Americas, and it is more than just slavery and civil rights marches,” Ms. Barnett said. “It is so much more! February is a time to celebrate and learn about people and events that help to make this country what it is today.”
Last month, Ms. Barnett’s class read Ambitious Girl by Meena Harris, niece of Vice President Kamala Harris, and talked about its themes of confidence and identity. The story revolves around a young girl who sees a strong woman be labeled "too ambitious” on TV.
Natalie B. '27 recommended it to Ms. Barnett earlier this year, saying that it teaches girls to always be themselves.
“After reading the story, we also discussed words that people use to tell us that we are ‘too this or too that.’ In our discussion, we talked about how those words hurt our feelings, but then how those words are a part of our identity,” Ms. Barnett said. “We concluded that being ‘too this or too that’ is a part of who we are and that we should appreciate that about ourselves.”
Ms. Barnett’s homeroom also decorated their door with words that affirm their identity.
In Mrs. Gailey-Fitting’s class, Sixth Agers participated in activities about figures like Jackie Robinson, who broke the baseball color line when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Ruby Bridges, the first Black student to integrate an elementary school in the South.
Ms. Jefferson’s Seventh Agers read Counting on Katherine, which tells the story of mathematician Katherine Johnson, a groundbreaking African-American woman who contributed to history through her work on the Apollo 13 mission. After reading the book, students completed a STEM challenge to design a device that helped “spaceships” land safely.
In Mr. Donmoyer’s Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Age Spanish classes, students read short bios about notable figures in the Black community. Ninth and Tenth Agers furthered these readings with age-appropriate discussions of identity and what it means to identify as Afro-Latinx.
In addition to other lessons, these activities reflect Calvert’s commitment to welcoming diverse voices to our community and curriculum year-round. In the Lower School, Ms. Barnett says, teachers are actively identifying “missing voices” in the curriculum in order to add diverse literature and media.
“We challenge ourselves to discover new materials to use that add zest to our teaching and what students learn,” Ms. Barnett said. “Students are finding their voice in new ways, and we are so proud to be part of their journey.”
In the Middle School, students regularly participated in Advisory activities related to identity, race, diversity, and inclusion in addition to in-class discussions. Guided by the Diversity Club, each week included a unique theme, including art and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, a week of gratitude, and musical composition.
During the art and BLM week, students listened to a podcast featuring poet Amanda Gorman, who spoke about her life and performing at this year’s Presidential Inauguration. The boys and girls also took part in lessons on using art to encourage change, which explored how music, poetry, art, and photography have been used in the fight for social justice.
In a later week, students collaborated with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids program to create a composition.
In class, Mrs. Merwin’s students researched notable Black scientists and delivered presentations about their chosen figures, including biologist Ernest Everett Just and Annie Easley, a NASA computer scientist and mathematician who advocated for women and people of color within the organization.
Fifth Graders also learned about 16-year-old Marley Dias, an activist and writer who launched the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign after realizing that most stories follow white male protagonists. The boys and girls then combed through the School’s collection of books by Black writers, researched authors, and requested new books to order.
Mrs. Daly said that each student chose at least one book to read and discuss, focusing on how they relate to the characters.
Evan L.’24 selected Becoming Muhammad Ali by Kwame Alexander and James Patterson because they are two of his favorite authors. The book, published earlier this year, depicts the athlete’s life before fame, including his experiences facing racism, struggling in school, and learning to box.
Blake S. ’24 chose the Track series by Jason Reynolds, which includes four books about a diverse group of friends who compete on an elite track team.
“I chose this book because it’s very relatable,” she said. “And it just shows that no matter what type of person you are, you can always do what you love and what you feel like you’re good at.”
Branden S. ’24 read Rebound by Kwame Alexander, which describes the childhood of basketball star Chuck Bell. He said that he appreciates the representation that books can provide.
“I just think it’s really important to see yourself in books so that, if you’re facing challenges in life, you know what to do,” he said.
Calvert School is a coed independent lower and middle school.