By Harold C. Ford
A group of about 42 sixth-grade students made Black History Month come alive with a “Live Museum” at Flint’s Freeman Elementary School on Feb. 25.
Students dressed up as Barack Obama, Serena Williams, Bernie Mac, Nelson Mandela, Langston Hughes, Alicia Keys, Guion Bluford and many other well-known persons.
For 90 minutes, they were visited in the school’s gymnasium by family members, representatives of the media, and Freeman classmates and staff who listened to short biographical sketches about the person(s) they had researched.
According to a press release from the Flint Community Schools, “…students (had) spent nearly 20 hours researching personalities, practicing scripts and gathering clothes/props for the Live Museum.”
The project was led by Freeman’s Kathy Savoie, a 30-year veteran teacher in Flint Community Schools. She required that students research and know the historical persons well enough that their oral sketches could be presented without the help of a written script or notes.
“It sticks in their head more than just them sitting down with an article to read because they’re acting it out,” Savoie said.
Savoie noted the project helped her students develop other skills–many overcame apprehensions about public speaking.
Savoie told East Village Magazine that students often picked a person based on what subject area in school they like. “They found their story,” she said.
Audrina Gill, 11, picked NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson who was portrayed in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures” by Taraji P. Henson. “I wanted to be her because she’s a famous mathematician and my favorite subject is math,” Gill said. It was an uncanny coincidence that Johnson died the day before the Live Museum event and that she would have celebrated her 102nd birthday on the very day of the event.
“I’m really nervous, standing in front of people, looking directly into their faces,” said Demetrianna Brown, 12, who took on the personage of track and field legend Wilma Rudolph. In the end, she admitted, “It was very fun.”
Brown found Wilma Rudolph to be a perfect match for her own love of running. “I like to run so I felt I had something in common with her,” she said.
Savoie has replicated this project for 10 years. “It motivates them to keep moving forward with their lives and to do the best they can do,” she said.
EVM Staff Writer and Education Beat reporter Harold C. Ford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.