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GNBVT Now Offering African American Studies as Senior Elective

The Social Studies Department’s newest 12th grade elective, African American Studies, currently has 42 students enrolled. This full year elective is open to 12th grade students and is taught by both Mr. Mark Waters and Mrs. Stephanie Canery who collaborated on the course design. “Developing this course was two years in the making. We had expressed our desire to develop and teach this course just before the pandemic hit in 2019. Mr. Waters and I did a lot of research on our own and then sat down four days last spring and wrote the curriculum as a team. It has honestly been a great experience and we realized how much we have been learning along with the students when we finally got an opportunity to have students in front of us this school year” Mrs. Canery said.

Portrait of Teacher, Mr. Mark Waters
Portrait of teacher, Stephanie Carney

Content covered by students during trimester one included the creation and impact of the Atlantic Slave trade, slavery from the Colonial period through the Antebellum period, and the abolitionist movement in America. From there, students covered the life of African Americans from the Civil War through World War I, highlighting important figures such as IDa B. Wells, W.E.B., Dubois, and Booker T. Washington and landmark Supreme Court Cases such as Plessy v. Ferguson (1896).

Students then cover related lives of African Americans during the Great Depression, World War II, and the Civil Rights Era highlighting contributions made by African Americans to the U.S. Military forces. The 1st Trimester concluded with student projects. Students used evidence acquired in each cycle to build a case for positive changes they would like to see in America. Students developed and presented powerpoints, newsletters, blogs, podcasts, Twitter pages, and websites.

One of the most unique aspects of this course is that it is not a typical course taught at the high school level. This course has been developed to be a project-based course that has provided students with the opportunity to showcase their knowledge in unique and innovative ways. Notable projects were developed by seniors Skyla Costeira, Bryena DosSantos, Corina Roman and Vanitza Semedo.

Trimester 2 content will include a look into the contributions African Americans have made to American Literature, Art, Music, Dance, and Culinary Arts.

When asked about what has been most fulfilling about teaching this course this year, Mrs. Canery stated, “I do not know that I have ever had a class’s attention like I have had this year.  We have made a huge effort to try to cover information that the students have not heard in school before and keep it as interactive and relevant to current events as possible. I let the students know that I did know the majority of this information before I started teaching this class because a course like this simply was not an option for me to take in high school or college which has been really eye opening.  It is no secret that this school year has been a challenge, but this course does give me something to look forward to because I’m learning right along with the students.”

Mr. Waters shared a similar sentiment when he noted, “Thus far, the most fulfilling aspect of the course is hearing the feedback from the students and how they express such interest and pride in learning about African Americans who challenged the status quo, overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles, invented amazing devices or even conquered the West!”

In the future, Mr. Waters and Mrs. Canery would I would like the class to be more readily available to all seniors. “We are so pleased with the diversity and different perspectives in the classes we have this year and hope that the interest continues. It is imperative that these true American stories be told to all students, not just those of color.” Mrs. Canery and Mr. Waters stated.

GNBVT is proud of our History department for taking this step toward incorporating more diversity within our History curriculum.

Small African American Studies Instagram Picture