Field Trips Abound!

by Jenna Danoy, Social Media Marketing Intern

captions and photographs by Camille Adeoye, Program Intern

Yesterday, our seventh graders from JHS 13 and some parent chaperones visited the African Burial Ground as part of their experience reading Zetta Elliott’s Ship of Souls.

In this young adult novel, the main character, D, and his friends Hakeem and Nyla are led across Brooklyn, in a journey steeped in history and suspense, that ends at the African Burial Ground. In a similar journey, our students ventured there with Ms. Elliott to learn about the sacred grounds.

Students look on as author Zetta Elliott explains that thousands of African bodies from colonial times lay hidden under Lower Manhattan, the only designated place for people of African descent to be buried at the time.

Ms. Elliott also helped boost enthusiasm for the burial ground by imparting her own knowledge.

“These are the graves they found,” she told the students. “They uncovered 419, and almost 40% were remains of children.”

Ms. Elliott’s contributions were definitely informative, and effectively brought the stories of the African slaves to life.

In addition to the supplements provided by Ms. Elliott, students interacted with the museum’s educational tools, like informational videos and a barrel on wheels that demonstrated just how physically taxing the slaves’ work was.

Two students listen to news coverage about the 1991 activism that led to the reburial of the African remains.

One student puts all his might into pushing the barrel up the platform to experience the labor African children did in the 17th and 18th centuries.

These tools really helped connect the students and parents with the lives of the slaves.

“Wow, [the African slaves] went through so much and died so young,” remarked Maggie. “It’s so sad; I cried in there.”

Despite the heat and the somber nature of the stories they heard, the students appeared very engaged and interested in what they were learning.

Marek, a student particularly enthralled with the burial ground, asserted his enthusiasm at the end of the day. “I really like to learn about things like this.”


Back to School and off to Brazil

A 5th Grade class at PS 165 on the Upper West Side began the year with a unit on mysteries. Class teacher Ms. Morales invited Behind the Book into the room to help create a mystery writing program for which we brought in prolific children’s writer Liz Levy and her book Danger and Diamonds: Mystery at Sea. Over the course of three visits with Ms. Levy, the class learned first-hand the process of conceiving, planning, and writing a mystery. They even had the opportunity to meet Ms. Levy’s editor, Nancy Mercado of Roaring Brook Press, and to talk to her about various other facets of the writing process, such as collaboration, rewriting, and editing.

Liz Levy, PS165 5th grade

Liz Levy talks to the class about her book

Read on!

November in East Harlem

Over the course of a week in November, Zetta Elliott visited Ms. Mayers’ 6th grade class at JHS 13 to conduct a workshop on picture books, with a particular emphasis on the role of symbol, image, and memory in storytelling.

Students had read and generated responses to Ms. Elliott’s Bird, a wonderful narrative of a young man’s first experiences with difficult relationships and the loss of loved ones.

Student work inspired by "Bird"

Read on!

The Year’s Work Begins

Behind the Book has kicked off the year with our first two visits!

On October 12th, our lovely and talented teaching artist Barbara Korein visited Ms. Sheryl Mayers’ 6th grade class at JHS 13 to conduct a journal-making workshop. Students used brightly colored paper, stickers, markers, pre-printed phrases, and magazine cutouts to decorate notebooks in a way that reflected their personality, with spectacular results:

JHS 13 Grade 6 Student

A finished journal

Read on!