Students enrolled in the secondary-level cohort of UFV’s Bachelor of Education program are filling a gap in BIPOC-focused curriculum material. In honour of Black History Month, they have created a series of videos highlighting Black Canadians and Americans.
Events of the last year, especially the global reaction to the brutal killing by police of George Floyd, have heightened society’s awareness of systemic racism and its impact on BIPOC.
This in turn has led to educators seeking curriculum materials for their students that not only focus on issues of systemic racism but also celebrate the significant achievements of Black people.
The students have made the videos available to the schools where they are completing their teaching practicums.
“As part of BEd programming, we ask our teacher candidates to consider ways that they can ‘give back’ to the schools who provide them with a practicum placement,” notes Dr. Vandy Britton, Teacher Education department head at UFV.
“Given the complexities of organizing large-scale activities during COVID, our secondary teacher candidates decided to put together a series of videos highlighting the accomplishments of Black Canadians and Americans, both past and present, in honour of Black History month,” says Britton. “The videos were shared with the principals of the schools where the teacher candidates are placed, in hopes that this information would be passed along to teachers and their students.”
The 19 videos, featuring notable Black citizens such as Viola Desmond, Harriet Tubman, Oscar Peterson, and even the newly famous young poet Amanda Gorman, can be viewed here:
The idea was suggested by teacher candidate Kendall James-McKnight, and the rest of the group agreed to collaborate on the video project.
“In our Applications of Reflective Practice course, we were encouraged to think of ways in which we could give back to our school communities. In particular, we were encouraged to think about how we could engage with the idea of social justice in our service work at the schools. I suggested doing videos for Black History Month.
“I thought back to my own school experience and realized that we rarely celebrated Black History Month and, if we did, it was only mentioned on one day of the month. With this initiative, we wanted to combat tokenism and give teachers the means to celebrate Black History Month consistently throughout the month.”
The students created 19 videos, one for each school-in-session day in February.
Once they had decided to work on one group project instead of individual events at their schools as might have been done in non-COVID times, the teacher candidates chose their subjects and created the videos.
“We allowed each group to select the individual of their choice. We wanted the videos to represent individuals who we believe have been inspirational and have paved the way for many to utilize their voices and overcome obstacles. There were lots of amazing people to choose from,” says James-McKnight.
They also consulted with administration at their host schools and with UFV faculty members.
“We created email templates to send to principals of the schools to gain permission to distribute the videos to their staff, and we created a title slide for the videos along with an introduction script to add consistency to the videos,” notes James-McKnight. “We also consulted with our professors, Vandy Britton and Awneet Sivia, to have them look over the videos in order to ensure they upheld the culturally sensitive pedagogy that the BEd program values.”
Making the videos was also a learning experience for the UFV teacher candidates, James-McKnight notes.
“Some of the people chosen for our video series were people that some of us had never heard of before. This led to a learning experience on our part as we learned more about significant Black people who greatly impacted movements in Canadian and American society that have helped to shift us towards equality and anti-racism — a goal that we as a society are still trying to achieve.”
The videos were designed to be appropriate for students from Grade 6 and up, but would be useful for anyone wanting to learn more.
She notes that the schools are grateful to be receiving curriculum reflecting the history and issues faced by Black North Americans.
“It feels really incredible to be able to contribute a collection of videos to an area of the curriculum that is in desperate need of more resources. I have had librarians from schools email me and tell me they are saving these videos for future use. It makes our cohort incredibly proud to know that we are not only able to help teachers celebrate Black History Month in their classroom this year, but in future years to come.