Natasha Henry standing in front of lockers
Natasha Henry standing in front of lockers

Beyond Black History Month

Lauren Beckford in Conversation with Natasha Henry

I will give you an example. As part of the preparation for a Black History Month assembly, a teacher for a grade 2 class developed a script for her students to present in first-person as various African Canadians, past and present. I suggested the focus on Blacks in Canada because there is always this tendency to teach about African Americans

in Canadian classrooms, disregarding the rich, storied history that Blacks have here. The students dressed up in role, and presented their lines speaking as the person they were assigned, for instance, “I am Harriet Tubman,” “I am George Dixon,” “I am Elijah McCoy,” or “I am Viola Desmond.” They went on to share a few of that person’s challenges and accomplishments. They connected with the narratives they learned about and presented so well that even today, four years later, many of those students remember the person with a sense of pride and accomplishment. African Canadian students don’t always get the chance to see these images, these historical connections to themselves, particularly within the Canadian context. As educators, we talk about culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy and students seeing themselves in the curriculum. I feel it helped bring a sense of cultural relevancy to the students at the time.

LB: Do you integrate Black history into all aspects of the curriculum or just Social Studies?

NH: In the past, I’ve made connections with students in science introducing students to inventors or scientists who are Black. I’ve also introduced Black novelists in Language Arts to broaden the scope of how Blacks are represented. For History and Geography, you can make connections with immigration and the movement of Blacks into Canada, which continues today. A specific activity I did with my students was using historical information on Africville, N.S. to explore the ideas presented in the novel  Last Days of Africville , a story of Africville seen through the eyes of one young girl.

LB: How does writing and doing research on Black history fit into your teaching practice?



illustration of children playing with shredded documents

Vivian McCaffrey looks at the results of austerity measures introduced in Ontario half a decade ago.

Author reading to students

What do you do when you can’t find a resource to start important conversations in your classroom? You create one, of course. Peel teacher Greg Maxton (who writes under his married name, Kentris) had become increasingly frustrated with the persistent, intentional and casual homophobia that he saw in his middle school teaching environment.