Last December Canadian author Lawrence Hill paid a virtual visit at Vankleek Collegiate Institute (VCI) to talk about his book, The Illegal, as the highlight of a classroom reading project on social justice issues. Hill and students discussed topics related to the book like racism and xenophobia.
Hill’s virtual visit is one of several special activities organized at schools in the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) either in advance of or as part of Black History Month celebrations in February. The UCDSB curriculum is expanding on the concept of Black History Month to cover all topics related to the issues of racism and stereotyping and the need to build inclusive communities.
“We need to ensure that all our students feel like they belong,” stated John McAllister, UCDSB board chair. “We need to give all students the opportunity to learn about themselves, their neighbours, and their friends. Our community is changing, and if we don’t change along with it, we won’t be serving our students or families well and that hurts us all. I’m proud we are celebrating Black History Month, but I’m also very proud that students are learning about culture, racism, and social justice issues all year long.”
During February the UCDSB classroom curriculum at all schools will feature books, graphic novels and poetry by Black authors, watching the Canadian Heritage Minute videos on Chloe Cooley, Jackie Shane, Richard Pierpoint, and others, and classroom discussions on race, culture, and other and other issues.
“The communities that we serve are more diverse than ever before,” stated Dan McRae, UCDSB principal of equity and inclusion, “and it is very important that all students, staff and families see themselves reflected in our schools and curriculum. I’m proud that our schools are celebrating Black History Month and that we have also made an everyday commitment to recognize, teach and celebrate members of the Black community who have made significant contributions to Canada and around the world, but who have historically not received the same recognition as their peers.”
Along with their virtual visit with author Lawrence Hill, VCI students took part in a joint project with their counterparts at Carleton Place High School, Perth & District Collegiate Institute, Tagwi Secondary School, and Thousand Islands Secondary School to create a Black History Month video available for viewing in UCDSB schools and by the general public. The video includes poetry, discussions, and other activities to promote black role models and the theme message of “educate to blast out hate.”
The video is available to view at: https://www.facebook.com/UCDSB/