Last Friday, guests were invited to the Hillsboro Elementary School gymnasium which had been transformed into a living history museum by the fifth grade students. Stationed around the gym, students posed as statues in front of project boards, awaiting their turn to come to life with the story of a historical figure they learned about for Black History Month.
Visitors were given a pencil and told to use it as a stylus, “pushing” a number on the students’ display boards. Once the number was pushed, the selected students introduced themselves in character and told a brief story about the person they portrayed.
Athletes, musicians, scientists, civil rights activists, pioneers, abolitionists and the founder of Black History Month were all present in the gym as the students shared the impact these individuals had on our past as well as the present.
Fifth grade teacher Nicole Dilley was inspired by a trip she took to Pigeon Forge, where she visited the Titanic Museum. Visitors would push buttons on the display and an audio file played, giving a portion of the history of the Titanic.
“Then I just started researching,” she said. “We always hear about Frederick Douglas. We always hear about Martin Luther King, Jr. I wanted to broaden the spectrum to show that there are many people who need to be celebrated, so I opened it up to arts and culture.”
Dilley selected the figures and categories, but after that, all the research and speeches were done by the students.
“They were responsible for deciding what would go on the boards,” she said. “There was very little interference from me. There were just a couple of times I would say ‘It’s in your research, and I feel you should talk about it.’
“This is, by far, the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” she continued. “They really did learn why we celebrate this month. I wanted it to be impactful.”
The following is a list of the historical figures and the students who portrayed them:
Innovator of Black History Month
Carter G. Woodson, Eli Beezley
Harriet Forten Purvie, Brynn Clutter
George DeBaptiste, Richard White
Civil Rights Activists
Medgar Evars, Bentlee Gladwell
Marian Wright Edelman, Chloe Annett
Alice Coachman, Claire Kelk
Serena Williams, Julia Brown
Mahalia Jackson, Hailey Goldsberry
Bob Marley, Ezra Bond
Katherine Johnson, Brylee Dunbrack
Neil deGrasse Tyson, Vincent Birchfield
Mary Field, Madeleine Burns
Yenwith Whitney, Joseph McClure