Clemmons Family Farm creates curriculum to celebrate ‘Black joy’

Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 11:30 PM EST
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ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - Clemmons Family Farm is engaging the community this Black History Month, specifically elementary-aged students. Channel 3′s Rachel Mann walks us through their free curriculum called “Two Bessies on Two Wheels.”

“This particular lesson talks about Bessie Stringfield and Bessie Coleman,” said Kia’Rae Hanron, the K-12 learning advisor at Clemmons Family Farm. She played a key part in designing the “Two Bessies on Two Wheels” curriculum, which is free for schools to use. The goal is to focus on Black joy and resiliency. “When we integrate these harder topics with the arts and present teachers with as many resources as we can, it makes them a little more comfortable in delivering that content.”

Bessie Stringfield and Bessie Coleman are both African-American women, who made history. Stringfield is the first African American woman to ride across the U.S. solo on a motorcycle. Coleman is the first black female pilot in the U.S, though she had to get her license in France because nowhere in the U.S would accept Black students. “She came back to the U.S. and earned a living as a stunt pilot doing all these amazing tricks,” Hanron explained. “She was also a bit of an activist and wouldn’t perform in venues where African Americans weren’t allowed.

28 school districts in Vermont, including Founders Memorial in Essex Junction, are using this curriculum for Black History Month, as well as schools in New Hampshire, Maine, New York, New Jersey, Washington, and Virginia.

Sarah kitchen is a third grade educator at Founders, who has been using this curriculum to teach her students. “It has been incredible,” Kitchen said. “It’s been very engaging to all of my students.” In it are projects where students can create a poem, a song, or a collage showing what they learned. “You follow it kind of part by part,” Kitchen continued. “You have all the resources, the videos, great examples, then the lessons and activities to print out.”

Founders Principal Sara Jablonski says the “Two Bessies on Two Wheels” curriculum is in line with the districts equity work, specifically this months focus on black joy. She says often education surrounding Black history focuses exclusively on adversity, although there’s much more to it. “Equity work is really about students feeling seen and heard and having their identities affirmed,” Jablonski said. “Some of that comes from connecting with school staff and community and some comes from content of what we’re teaching in the classroom.”

Students also have a chance to create a story board for a song called “Vroom!” by Kerubo Webster, which tells the story of the two Bessies. The winning idea will be used to make a video for it.

“I don’t know if you can tell, it makes me smile so big. It makes me so happy to see students doing this work at such a young age, so I’m so glad it’s been a success,” Hanron said.

The “Two Bessies on Two Wheels” curriculum is available online on the Clemmons Family Farm website for free through March 1st.