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Ephesus Elementary Celebrates Black History Month through Music

Ephesus Elementary School (EES) has built four weeks of commemorating Black History Month with a focus on the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” One of the highlights was a full day of activities with author Kelly Starling Lyons, whose picture book “Sing a Song” tells the history of the famous African American composition. Lyons’ visit on February 12th coincided with the 120th anniversary of the first time the song was sung.

Lyons at Ephesus Lyons met with third through fifth grade students for her first session in the school gym, and then a second session with kindergarten through second grade students. She read from her books, and engaged the children in responsive reading. Lyons said her books are all based on true events in her life or history. The advice she shared with students about writing was to always use the five senses, and to remember to work hard, have a big imagination and to believe in themselves.

For the last part of the day, she read and spoke with the nearly 50 students in the two EES affinity groups, BOYZ 2 MEN and My Squad. This year at EES, focusing on equity and closing achievement gaps, staff members have created the affinity groups of fourth and fifth grade students of color, one for boys and one for girls. 

The school community took part in a variety of activities prior to Lyons’ visit to engage students and staff in celebrating “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” There were door decorating contests with musical themes, story readers sharing the book in each class and writing activities that explored African American musical culture. On the day of Lyons’ presentations, the entire school held a parade welcoming her to the building. 

During the first week of February, students all learned the song in their music classes in preparation to perform in their assemblies with Lyons. Throughout the month, students are learning about African American musicians by reading texts and listening to music from curated playlists.

For the second half of the month, guest readers will come to every classroom to share books by African American authors or featuring African American characters. Parents, staff and community members have been invited to sign up for reading sessions across the grade levels.