St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School celebrated the beginning of Black History Month in early February by inviting renowned historian Dr. Marvin Dunn to speak to students in grades 1-5.
Dr. Dunn is the author of Black Miami in the Twentieth Century, and co-author of The Miami Riot of 1980: Crossing the Bounds.
During his presentation at St. Thomas, he spoke to students about the monumental feats African Americans made in building and laying the foundation for Miami. To give students context about the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Dunn selected six of them to participate in a role play of the historical day in 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus. Students were asked how they felt during the simulation and the overall response was “sadness.”
St. Thomas has been incorporating Social Emotional Learning (SEL), an evidence-based approach that teaches students to identify their emotions, have healthy relationships, and feel empathy and compassion for others.
Second grader Lily Pendergast was so moved by Dr. Dunn’s speech that she wrote a heartfelt letter thanking him for teaching St. Thomas students how important it is to treat people with kindness and to look beyond the outside, because what’s inside is what matters the most. Lily’s letter showcases what students are learning at St. Thomas.
“This is an example of how SEL can lead to a more inclusive atmosphere and an appreciation for diversity,” said Lily Medina, director of counseling.
Although preschool and kindergarten students did not attend Dr. Dunn’s presentation, they are participating in other activities that celebrate Black History Month.
Kindergarteners in Mrs. Carbajales’ class engaged in an experiment with a brown egg and a white egg, and were instructed to crack both eggs open. The students quickly realized that once the eggs were cracked, they could not determine which egg was which.
“The purpose of this activity was to teach students that we are all the same on the inside and to teach students to judge by character and not by skin color,” Carbajales said,
Located in Coral Gables, Florida, St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School (STEPS) was founded in 1953. For more information on St. Thomas, call 305-665-4851 or visit www.stepsmia.org.