Kent County Middle School students highlight ‘elements’ of Black History

CHESTERTOWN — Kent County Middle School has taken the most well-known chart in science and turned it into a celebration of Black History Month in February.

A wall near the school’s office and entryway has what appears to be a large handmade version of the Periodic Table of Elements, but it is not about the atomic building blocks.

The Periodic Table of Influential African Americans highlights Black leaders, scientists, artists and activists throughout history.

“The next time you have a chance to visit Kent County Middle School, take a second and stop by our African American influential wall as you just might find someone you never knew about,” Tyray Johnson said on a social media post highlighting the Periodic Table history project.

Johnson is the middle school’s Title I family liaison and leader of the Achieving Academic Equity and Excellence for Black Boys mentoring program.

He has worked to highlight for students in the AAEEBB program the important roles so many Black leaders have played throughout history.

Among other activities, the students took a field trip last Novembr to the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore.

On the school’s periodic table, the historical figures are organized by their work, with categories including Famous Firsts, politicians, activists, scientists and entrepreneurs. Each person is listed by their initials.

Under entrepreneurs, modern-day rapper and business mogul Jay-Z is featured alongside Garrett Morgan (1877-1963), who invented a three-way traffic signal and founded the G.A. Morgan Hair Refining Co.

Renowned mathematician and astronomer Benjamin Banneker, born in Baltimore in 1731, holds the top placement on the wall — just like hydrogen is the first element on the periodic table.

Each name has a QR Code that takes viewers to a website offering biographical information.

The idea for the middle school project came from teacher and instructional coach Christine Clark.

“I got the idea from social media and thought it was a great way to highlight influential African Americans, some of whom are ones we do not regularly hear about in the history books,” Clark said.

Similar periodic tables highlighting Black History have been posted in other schools and public libraries throughout the country.

Kent County Middle School students have supplemented the history project by creating biographical posters highlighting influential African Americans.

Art teacher Janet McCormick and students also created an art project using archival photos collected by Washington College’s Chesapeake Heartland: An African American Humanities Project.


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