Including activism in education

Non-history teachers honor Black History Month


During Black History Month, Jones has decided to implement a Black Lives Matter week. 

This week is meant to acknowledge and educate the Jones community on Black history in all subjects. Some teachers in the math and science departments are using this opportunity to shed light on Black achievements in their respective fields. 

AP Environmental Science teacher Eric Hancock has reserved a large portion of his curriculum to educate students about environmental racism and environmental justice. During Black History Month, he featured individual Black figures in the environmental science field.

“Learning about this stuff is important, not just as lip service for Black History Month, but we need a cultural revival in which we redefine what we see as progress and redefine what we see as success and put more value on community and each other,” said Hancock.

The Physics department posted a Black History Month scientist spotlight, hoping to diversify the selection of scientists that students learn about. Physics teacher Erin Cathcara said  this is a step in the right direction. The department is trying to do more than the surface level.

“This could be part of a larger dialogue,” said Cathcara. “This was a really good idea that Mr. Clayton had, which is why I started doing it in AcLab too. And now instead of the attendance questions I’m going to try and do more info post check in questions.”

To help the students further explore on their own, the teachers attached links that give a more in depth look at the lives of the Black scientists. 

Steven Clayton had his students do a scavenger hunt where they matched graphs with scenarios. He added quotes from a diverse group of scientists with the help of the other teachers in the physics department to make the assignment more inclusive. 

“This is something that we’ve all talked about trying to incorporate. But I’ve also known that there’s a huge blind spot of non-European scientists,” said Steven Clayton. I’ve always wanted to incorporate it but like, honestly, there’s not that many resources out there”.

The physics department said they are  optimistic about the effects these new changes will have to the previous curriculum. 

“I appreciate the fresh breath of scientists. I think a lot of times when you experience Black History Month activities in school you see the same couple names pop up again and again. So I’ve been learning a ton by putting these things together and giving access to my students.”

These teachers are also hoping to integrate social justice issues into their curriculums to inspire students to push towards a more equitable future for society. Statistics teacher Kimberly Bowman is striving to include these topics as examples of how math can be applied in the real world. 

“We have to find creative ways of breaking down systemic racism within the history of mathematics. And then, use social issues within the context of things like statistics to help bring issues to light and to have discussions and educate others about it,” said Bowman.

Hancock said talking about these topics will help his students realize how environmental issues, such as climate change, stem from the culture of the exploitation of marginalized communities. 

“These types of lessons are some of the best ways to start thinking, conceptualizing, seeing how it [environmental injustice] is played out in history, and seeing how it still plays out today. And then, we can challenge our notions of what the status quo is and what our society should look like,” said Hancock.