DECATUR – Nelson Mandela was deep into his role at Durfee Magnet School on Monday. When asked his real name, he said it was “Nelson Mandela.”
“I saved the world,” said Quamar White, who finally divulged his real name. The fourth-grader and his classmates' Black History Month project was a wax museum, with students portraying the historical figures. A donation to the school triggered the “wax figures” to tell their stories, while behind them, poster boards showed their most recent Twitter and Instagram account updates.
Teacher Caleb Davis had planned the usual research and report for his students, but then he had a better idea, and thought of a way to help the kids relate to people who, to them, are little more than pictures and stories.
“I was going to have them do an ordinary report,” Davis said. “But then I thought, we've been doing that forever. I wanted to do something more innovative, more creative. So what I did was take the African-Americans from our past and brought them to our present day. I used Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, and I gave each one of the African-Americans their own social media account, and had (the students) come up with tweets, tweeting events from their life as real-life tweets, but they're really events that happened in their lives.”
MacArthur High School students also pitched in to help, Davis said, and he couldn't have done it without them. The wax museum was supposed to have taken place on Feb. 26, but the rest of the school held its Black History Month assembly that day, so he pushed his students' presentations back to Monday, and he was a little worried they wouldn't have an audience. However, several parents and fellow students attended, and Davis said he was pleased with both the turnout and how well his students performed.
Baseball fan Jamari Tennin said he didn't need to do a lot of research to prepare his presentation on Jackie Robinson, because he already knew most of it from being a fan. Madame C.J. Walker, known to her friends as ShaQuayla Miller, was resplendent in a fake-fur jacket that made her stand out, even from across the room.
Jacaijah Jones, who chose Shirley Chisolm, said the Twitter part of the project was the toughest for her. Condensing events into a few words, and doing it in a short time frame, isn't the way she works best, she said.
“But I did it,” she added. “And I got it done.”
“R-E-S-P-E-C-T” is Na'Kiyah Cobb's favorite Aretha Franklin song, and her reason for choosing the Grammy-winning Queen of Soul to portray is straight to the point.
“She never gave up,” Na'Kiyah said. “She's hardworking.”