Fairlands Elementary School’s fifth-grade class spent the past six weeks working on a living-museum project to celebrate Black History Month in Pleasanton.
An annual event, teachers Kelly Lack and Jenny Eisenbies transformed the live museum show — usually performed in front of the entire student body in the school’s multipurpose room — into a virtual show. The African American Living Museum showcased 27 different famous African Americans who made the world a better place. Each student researched their individual and created a short video about pivotal moments in their lives.
“It was really hard this year, being virtual,” said Lack. “There are so many things I haven’t had the time to keep. But this was something I couldn’t give up, so we tweaked it, and it was amazing.”
Lack has had her class perform a living-history museum of African American characters every February since she began teaching at Fairlands six years ago. Her current class was in kindergarten when they and the rest of the school attended the first museum. They recall pushing ‘buttons’ to make the characters come to life and tell their story. Knowing how much the project meant to her class, Lack drew on the technological knowledge of her co-workers for inspiration and found a way to make it work.
“My co-worker taught me a lot of tech things using WeVideo and slides, so I have had help seeing there are cool digital things we can incorporate into our teaching,” Lack said. “I was able to see that I could take this project and flip it and make it an experience the other students could see, interact and engage with.”
Once she had her idea, Lack and her students went to work choosing characters, researching their lives and creating videos.
Merritt Clifford chose Ruby Bridges for her famous figure. During her video, Merritt described Bridges’ walk into her first day in an all-white school surrounded by the National Guard.
“I chose Ruby Bridges because I remember learning about her in school but still didn’t know that much about her,” Merritt said. “I really wanted to learn about her, so that’s why I chose Ruby Bridges. The project helped me learn and get to step into her shoes.”
Merritt said the biggest challenge for her was learning to work the green screen — large pieces of green paper sent home with parents by Lack — but once she conquered the screen, adding music and text became fun.
Harshita Sinha said her biggest challenge was memorizing the essay she wrote on Annie Easley. Harshita hopes to follow in Easley’s footsteps and become a rocket scientist. Her video describes Easley’s courage in pursing her dreams despite the color of her skin.
“The WeVideo was the hardest part, because we had to memorize our speech, but it all paid off when everyone got to see our videos,” she said. “We were working on the project for over a month and revising our essays over and over again. So it was a long process, but it was fun.”
Lack and Eisenbies agreed their favorite part of this project was seeing their students’ creativity.
“It’s super impressive what these kids have come up with,” Eisenbies said. “We let them choose an African American person form history, and we try to pair them up with a person who goes along with their interests ... when they do the writing, they are writing from that person’s perspective, which is what makes this project unique. They come away with a connection to this person and what they went through.”
To view the Virtual African American Living Museum presented by Fairlands Elementary, visit https://rb.gy/i6mucc.