‘Hands-on, minds on’ key for Surry County Schools

By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: April 5, 2019 | 3:15 p.m.

SURRY – Kids having fun while learning?  What a concept!  But according to Surry County Schools Assistant Superintendent Dr. Serbrenia Sims it’s one of the cornerstones of their success. 

“Our goal is always to make curriculum as engaging as possible for students to make it memorable,” Sims explained. “They have to be participants, so we put on events in such a way that the students always are the center focus.  There is a reason and method for everything we do, and the events all are aligned with our standards of learning.  It’s not just about coming out to have a good time, although it’s important that they do become engaged and enjoy what they’re doing.  But each event throughout the year is a way of engaging students and families.  Everything we do throughout the school year has that as its focal point.” 

 “It starts with Homecoming in the fall,” Sims began.  “That’s a really big deal in Surry County, and it brings with it the opportunity to look and see not just what’s going on nationally, but to celebrate and understand what happens right at home in their community.  To learn a bit about their own, local history.”

Surry students take part in a Black History Month production.

“From Homecoming, we transition in November to Veterans Day,” Sims continued.  “Then, we say special thanks to Veterans in the community by doing things like tying a large yellow ribbon around a tree as a strong visual aid for the youngest students to relate to as we talk about our American history.  And we invite veterans from the community to the school for a special lunch.  The veterans and the students not only really enjoy participation in that, but they also learn a great deal in the process.”

“Before Winter Break we inform the entire community on some of the things we’re doing as relates to Virginia tiered systems of support via the Winter Carnival,” Sims said. “That’s a great opportunity for parents to come out with the kids to the schools and learn more about some of the programs the students have access to. They get to see history in the making as innovative methods of interacting at school develop – to understand about the things we do to make sure behaviors are what they need to be throughout the day in school while the kids are learning.”

“Then February offers an opportunity to make history really come alive with our Black History Program,” she said. “It’s one thing just to learn about historical figures, but quite another to learn as the student almost embodies what that person was like as a historical figure.” 

SCHS students smile as they prepare to perform musical acts in the 100 Years Through History Black History Month presentation

This year, the students certainly did that, and in incredibly innovative and creative ways.  Surry Elementary School celebrated African-American History Month with a wax museum when twenty grade three and four members of Mrs. Bell’s book club researched famous African-Americans, created posters about them, and presented their stories in the school’s cafeteria. 

As assistant principal Tanieka Ricks explained, tongue in cheek, “Students, community members, and parents were able to go through the museum and press the ‘Start Button’ to begin each presentation. Some of the famous people represented by the students included Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Marian Anderson, Thurgood Marshall,  Colin Powell, Maya Angelou, Winton Marsalis, Frederick Douglass, Coretta Scott King, Harriet Tubman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jackie Robinson – who was at spring training and unable to join us.” 

The middle school students came up with a life-sized representation of a bus to represent the Montgomery Bus Boycott,  which was kicked off when Rosa Parks famously – and bravely – refused to move to the back of the bus.  They dressed as adults would have at that time, and even constructed the bus themselves. 

But Surry High School students really outdid themselves, writing and performing a play called “100 years of History Through Music” for an audience of their peers, staff, and families.  It opened with math teacher Marion King eloquently relating, “African-Americans have made great strides throughout history in the field of education, politics, science, literature, the arts, and music. A great philosopher, George Santayana penned his original quote to say, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ Our relationship with history can be viewed through a special lens. Those who do not know their history are condemned to repeat its mistakes out of ignorance. But those who value and embrace the complexity, the richness, and the rewards of knowing their history will forever light a candle to the path of what can be a powerful and successful future!” 

Surry County Elementary School’s wax museum

Courtney Ward, assistant principal of Surry County High school described the event saying, “They took the audience on a journey that tunneled through Black history and contributions of African-Americans, through the lens of cultural music of major time periods. From spirituals, to the Harlem Renaissance, to Motown, to hip-hop, students sang, danced, and performed popular, groundbreaking tunes that defined each time period, revealing a soundtrack of the African-American experience.” 

“With this and all activities done within the school we look for an opportunity to engage with the community,” Dr. Sims said. “Not just what the students are tested on in multiple choice format.  The Play, the Montgomery Boycott Bus, the Wax Museum – all were physically engaging.  And ‘hands-on/minds-on’ is the central focus.  Research shows that that is the most effective way to learn, understand, and retain the historical knowledge. And it doesn’t hurt that they get to have – and also remember – the fun they have as they’re doing these things.” 

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
Send Us Your News Tips or Report an Error

Leave a Reply