HARRISBURG – Many schools around the country have been recognizing Black History Month with special projects, and fifth graders in Benjie Willsey's class at East Side Intermediate School in Harrisburg are among those students.
The special recognition is an educational opportunity, Willsey said.
"It allows us to spotlight people who might otherwise be overlooked," she told her class, in preparation for their project – researching black Americans who have had a significant impact on the country, then writing an acrostic poem with the researched individual's surname.
Contributions to society are what Willsey wants her students to explore, she said.
"The person you're researching doesn't have to be famous, but you will have to research facts about them for the acrostic poem," she said, instructing the pupils eager to work on their iPad minis. "And make sure you are using facts, not opinions."
Soon, the class was quiet except for the sound of occasionally resting an iPad so writing on the poems could be done.
Students appeared attentive to their studies.
Melita McCabe, 11, researched former President Barack Obama.
"Because he was president for eight years, and he was a good president," McCabe said.
Brandyn Roe, 10, looked to the entertainment category.
"I picked Will Smith, because he's one of my favorite movie actors," Roe said. "He was in 'Men in Black.'"
Basketball star Chris Paul was the natural choice for Caleb Nelson, 10.
"He's one of my favorite basketball players on my favorite team, the Los Angeles Clippers," Nelson said.
Tessa Harrison, 11, returned to the realm of politics for her choice.
"I picked Condoleeza Rice," Harrison said. "I didn't know her, and wanted to learn more about her."
George Washington Carver, Ruby Ridges, Muhammad Ali, Louis Armstrong and Malcom X were among other Americans researched by the class, in what Willsey told the students was a very important exercise.
"This will help broaden our knowledge of other black Americans who have played important roles," she told the class.