Black History Summer Academy hosts 230 students for week-long program
Nearly 200 students are engaged in a week-long look at African American history and historic contributions to the Springfield community.
The Black History Summer Academy is an annual event for K-12 students and adults to learn more about the cultural impact of African American citizens and leaders in their community. Students of all ethnicities participate each night of the week-long program, said Gwen Marshall, SPS equity and access coordinator and co-founder of the Academy.
“We really wanted our children to be familiar with our African American historical figures who have made a difference in Springfield, Missouri,” she said. “Education, business, music, politics, churches -- they’ve made a difference, and we wanted to honor their contributions, as well as connect their impact to the upcoming African American Heritage Trail.”
The Black History Summer Academy celebrates the local and global contributions of persons of African descent through its instruction and activities. Springfield Public Schools has been a significant partner with the work and learning facilitated at the Black History Summer Academy, collaborating with curriculum and providing resources for the week-long program.
Each evening, students receive specific lessons based upon their age. Local civil rights leaders will meet with the students, who will also learn about entrepreneurship, art, innovation and music, said Monica Horton, administrative liaison for Black History Summer Academy.
“Inspired by the citywide effort to launch the African American Heritage Trail, our theme for this year is Hidden Gems: Black Excellence in Springfield,” said Horton.
On June 11, every BHSA class participated in a Park Day field trip to Silver Springs Park, located at 1100 N. Hampton Ave. There, students learned about the historic significance of the city park.
“By being there, students could see the only park in Springfield where black members of the community could go,” said Marshall. “Students were able to understand it was the only place they could go for recreation, socialization and fun. Roller skating, dances, this was the only place for our community in the past, and it’s still an important place for our community in Springfield.”
Community members and leaders shared their insight on growing up in Springfield during a time of segregation with students. Then, more than 200 BHSA students toured Timmons Hall, a Springfield-Greene County Park Board event facility offering historical, cultural and educational opportunities. Thanks to a partnership with the Equity & Access department at Springfield Public Schools, students received an interactive lesson about the historic space,
"We rotated in elementary, then middle and high school students, as well as the adult class," said Christine Peoples, Timmons Hall Coordinator, Special Facilities at Springfield-Greene County Park Board. "I wanted the elementary students to remember preservation. I did some animated storytelling for the children to understand why the building was preserved. There were about 75 kids in here, and we had a lot of fun with the fact that Timmons Hall was built in 1932 and that its rocks were collected and moved using wheelbarrows and carts pulled by mules. They each got a rock with a story card because they're going to tell the story of Timmons Hall with their rock."
Middle schoolers participated in charades and a mock church service in the space. Previously, Timmons Hall was Timmons Temple. Later, the middle school students learned about Carter G. Woodson, the father of African American history. High schoolers learned about how historically Timmons was a space where leadership within the African American community was cultivated, and that they were called to be leaders, too.
"Without our history, we can't know our future," said Peoples. "All of the things that were taught at this table, at Timmons, that sustained people for their future. The students learned that it was time to pass the torch. They realized that someone really does care about their hopes and their dreams, and they're loved. They can make a difference, and unity is possible."
“It’s important not just for African Americans, but to all our citizens in Springfield, that we know our community’s history,” said Marshall. “The Academy is not just for one ethnicity; the Academy brings us all together in unity to explore our past to ensure that we won’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”