Did you know that potato chips, the home security system, blood bank, corn seed planter and central heating with natural gas were all invented by African American men and women? This February, The Colorado Springs School (CSS) is highlighting these trailblazers, among others, in celebration of Black History Month.
The Inventors’ Series at CSS will feature a new inventor weekly, alongside an image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for a total of seven weeks. Within each academic building, students in pre-K through grade 12 will encounter an ever-growing display of large-scale photographs including details about each inventor’s life and contributions, alongside tangible items depicting their greatest inventions.
In addition to honoring Black History Month with a school-wide Inventors’ Series, students are being asked to analyze and consider “What Perspective is Missing?” throughout their daily lessons. This form of questioning enables students to recognize the contributions of underrepresented individuals in world history and to broaden their cultural understanding of the people and things around them.
The Inventors’ Series launched on Jan. 24, 2022, following a schoolwide celebration of Dr. King’s birth and life, during which each academic division held its own special assembly. In the Children’s School division – pre-K through grade five – CSS’s youngest learners shared their ideas on how they can bring about positive change in the world and read quotes by Dr. King. Older students in grades nine through 12 spoke passionately about the topic of inclusivity.
All three assemblies concluded with a candle-lighting ceremony to represent unity, and a tribute from current Head of School Tambi L. Tyler, the first African American leader to serve as Head of School for CSS. Tyler shared with older students the story of her birth in a segregated hospital in Mississippi and the struggles her family has faced due to race.
“Dr. King encouraged us to reflect and realize that anyone can be great because each one of us can serve,” Tyler said. “Use Dr. King’s life and light to realize the struggles and be committed to overcoming them.”
In an effort to show their support for those less fortunate and to honor Black History Month, Tyler invited the school’s community to purchase children’s books featuring characters of color. To date, CSS families have collected nearly 60 books and the number continues to grow, with all gifts to later be donated to students in need.
Since joining CSS nearly two years ago, Tyler has vastly expanded the school’s focus on Dr. King and Black History Month to promote inclusivity and awareness. ”I learned people judge people by the color of their skin, and that’s not right,” one third-grade student said.
In January 2021, guest speaker Lt. Col. James Harvey III – the last remaining Colorado Tuskegee Airman – addressed the CSS community via Zoom to share his thoughts on Dr. King and to reflect on his own time as a Tuskegee Airman. Then 97-years-old, Lt. Col. Harvey is the recipient of numerous decorations and awards, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 10 Oak Leaf Clusters, Good Conduct Medal, and Air Force Reserve Medal.
In 2021, the school community also recognized Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Black History Month with a Soles for Service shoe drive. Donated by CSS families, the shoes were aligned two-by-two across campus. Each pair signified solidarity, unity, collective vision and messaging. The art installation represented the breadth of people involved across the Civil Rights Movement and the ability of boycotts, protests and sit-ins to change the lives of African Americans forever.
“Look at the shoes to elevate love and not hate,” Tyler told students. “Think about some of the rules of civil disobedience; how far they must have walked and what they must have overcome.”
At the conclusion of the installation, hundreds of pairs of shoes were donated to Partners in Housing, an organization committed to providing one year of transitional housing and supportive services to families experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless.