top of page

Diversity, Black History Month, and Lunar New Year

Dear Parents,

At the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Lab School, we celebrate our differences as well as our similarities. The idea that each individual brings a unique and valuable dimension to our shared experience drives the relationships in our community. To us, growing and learning among individuals who share widely divergent life stories, and appreciating their respective cultures, is an invaluable aspect of a true education.

Nurturing a respectful and inclusive school culture means paying close attention to individual experiences, our curriculum, our admission work, and our daily lives at the Lab School. We partner with families to help children broaden their view of themselves and others by ensuring that they encounter mirrors of their own background and experience, as well as windows of difference.

Black History Month

Each year in February, Canadians are invited to participate in Black History Month festivities and events that honour the legacy of Black Canadians, past and present.

You will have heard from your child’s classroom teacher about some of the ways we will celebrate, and continue to learn, about Black History Month. The JICS Assembly Committee is also organizing a school-wide assembly to celebrate Black history.

We thought you might also be interested for you to read how other grades and specialty classes are contributing to our learning in developmentally appropriate ways. As always what unfolds in our classrooms is responsive to the children, their current interests, knowledge and developmental readiness.

  • In the Art Studio, the children will be enjoying the life stories of artists Faith Ringgold, August Savage, Jean Michel Basquiat, and Jacob Lawrence. The children will be focusing on what inspired them to become artists and the impact their art has had in the world.

  • In Primary Music, the children will read picture books and sing “Kye Kye Kule”, a traditional West African call-and-response song , a clapping game from the Caribbean (“Four White Horses”), and two African American spirituals (“Now Let Me Fly” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”). Children will also explore drumming sounds together and will move to drumming recordings from East Africa.

  • In Junior Music, Russell will be teaching a history of African American music: African music, work songs, field hollers, gospel, blues, jazz, R & B, funk, reggae, rock, Motown, soul, rap and hip hop. We will also discuss the reason some of these styles of music were created.

  • The Drama Program will celebrate Black History Month through storytelling, games, skits, monologues, and tableaux, focusing on the achievements of Black Canadians and African Americans in the arts, education, science, and sports. We will also examine the achievements of those who fought for emancipation and Civil Rights.

  • In the Library, we will be exploring the journey and impact of Black Canadians through a variety of texts including poetry, songs, stories and information books. We will be sharing stories from Brer Rabbit and Friends, a book gifted to us by author and storyteller, Karima Amin, who visited with most of the classes last year. Our unit will focus less on traumatic events of the past and more in celebrating Black American and Canadian figures who contribute to the landscape of racial diversity that benefits out city and our world.

  • In connecting to Black History Month during Phys. Ed. classes, students in different classes will hear a little bit about important and notable black athletes (such as Donovan Bailey and this years women’s Nigerian bobsled team) as well as those Black innovators and inventors which have had impacts on health through their contributions (such as Bennett Omalu who brought chronic trauma encephalopathy into discussion with the NFL, and Otis Boykin who introduced a control unit to improve pacemaker functioning). We aim to learn more about these people and the issues they faced through discussions, activities, and games in the gym.

  • Early Years (Nursery and JK) classes read books and share oral stories that highlight communities, characters, and traditions. By reading a variety of books, the children will make connections and develop an appreciation for diverse experiences.

  • In SK we read a lot! Selecting great books that offer opportunities for all children to see themselves reflected is a priority we undertake throughout the year. Black History Month is a time to make that priority more explicit. The SKs began Black History Month with a reading of More More More, by Vera B Williams. In three short vignettes, the children are introduced to little ones and their care-givers – a father, a grandmother, and a mother. A range of backgrounds and economic conditions are represented in the vibrant illustrations, while a shared sense of love and trust are playfully highlighted in the text. We followed the reading with a discussion of the richness of peoples and experiences lived within our city, and how this month we will be focussing on stories and genres that have emerged from African and Caribbean communities. To highlight the celebratory aspect of Black History Month, the SKs will also be hosting the JKs for A Morning of Stories, Thursday February 22nd. Parents and grandparents from both classes are invited to share anecdotes, storybooks, and music, while we provide the treats!

  • The Grade 1 students will be reading picture books by Black Canadian authors and reading biographies to learn about the contributions of Black Canadians.

  • The Grade 2s are reading “What Color is my World: The Lost History of African-American Inventors”. It follows adolescent twins as they discover how objects and ideas that play an important role in their daily lives can be traced back to black inventors, scientists, scholars, and engineers. It provides factual biographies in child-friendly language, and opens up opportunities for discussions about voices in history, and the contributions of people who aren't readily known. We will be using the ideas in this book to further our understanding of Black history in North America, and to further expose the children to the accomplishments and successes of Black people.

  • In Grade 3 we will be exploring Black history and experiences through poetry with a focus on the writing of Langston Hughes. The children will have opportunities to discuss the themes and ideas in these poems and build upon and extend their current understanding and thinking about Black history, diversity, and racial bias.

  • Grade 4 students will be spending significant time in February in studies related to Black History Month. The children will learn why Black History Month is so important- why it is critical to learn about Black history as well as the important achievements and contributions to North American Culture. In the coming weeks depending on what the children already know and where their interests lie, we plan to learn about key topics in this area of study including the Atlantic Slave Trade, the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement. As always what unfolds in the classroom is responsive to the children, their current interests, knowledge and developmental readiness. We will also meet many important individuals along the way through discussion, media and story including artists, scientists, activists, and many more. Discussions and stories will provide strong opportunities to learn about discrimination, resilience, and great achievement through this particular lens.

  • In Grade 5 we have been studying Energy. During our persuasive writing activity, our students noticed the lack of diversity in the scientist that contributed to the field of energy science. This lead us to discussions related to discrimination, rights, and privilege. The Grade 5s have also been reading books for our novel study unit, including The Watson's Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis, and One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. Both of these novels are set in the 1960s and are about African-American families who encounter many issues related to injustice, discrimination, and civil rights. In addition, our class will explore Black History Month through various books. We will work to highlight moments in Black history that changed the world and we will discuss various influencers who fought for civil rights and valiantly stood up to discrimination, racism, and segregation.

  • In Grade 6, Black History Month will be celebrated through a focus on the stories of Black people in North America. Through picture books such as January’s Sparrow and Pink and Say, both by Patricia Polacco, we will explore not only the historical facts, but also the lived experience of Black people over four centuries of history in Canada and the United States. Children in Grade 6 are increasingly able to understand the more troubling and complex details of these stories, and through exploring the short stories and poems of authors like Jason Reynolds, Kwame Alexander, and Lawrence Hill, we will engage in conversations on how Black history influences the present for everyone in society. Each student will also do their own homework research on an Image of their choosing from African-Canadian or African-American history. Finally, we may explore the current issues of exclusion, anti-black racism, and mass incarceration through engaging with the rap lyrics of artists such as Talib Kweli, Cadence Weapon, and Common.

  • To mark #BlackHistoryMonth2018, the Grade 6s @JackmanICS will be highlighting Black Canadians who have changed the game for everyone. Each student will write a tweet and there will be a new one coming out each day of the month. Watch the @JackmanICS or @benmpeebles twitter accounts to follow us through the month!

Should parents have an interest in being involved in any aspect of our focus of Black History, please do be in touch with us. We would welcome your involvement!

Here is some information on Black History Month drawn from the Government of Canada website

Lunar New Year

Friday, February 16 is Lunar New Year, marking the start of the “Year of the Dog”. Those born in 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006 (our current Grade 6 students!), and 2018 are known as Dogs who are considered to be “communicative, serious, and responsible”, an accurate description of our wonderful Gr 6 students.


China, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore, and many Asian countries celebrate the Lunar New Year as national holidays. Customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the Lunar New Year vary widely.

Since, February 16 and February 19 are JICS school holidays, each classroom and some specialties will be celebrating this important festival on different days. Stories, traditional foods, art activities, and wearing the colour red may be part of this special day. Classroom teachers will provide more information and requests for parent volunteers! Please let the JICS teachers know if you are able to help us.

Happy New Year!




bottom of page