Kilgour Students Step into the Shoes of Influential African Americans


Imagine sharing an afternoon tea with activist Rosa Parks, singer and musician Stevie Wonder, or mathematician Katherine Johnson. What conversations would you have? What would you learn about Parks’ childhood, or Wonder’s musical influences? Maybe you’d pick up some interesting anecdotes about Johnson.

Kilgour’s Conversation and Tea program is a fun and engaging way for students to learn about prominent African Americans.

For months, third-grade students in Herman Daniels’ English and social studies classes at Kilgour School have been researching and studying African Americans who have made a lasting impact on society. Their character studies led to the culminating event, “Conversation and Tea,” in which students dressed as the African American they are learning about and had an afternoon tea ceremony to hear about the figures their classmates studied.

“This project is a great way for students to engage in the history and lives of those before them,” said Daniels. “Students conduct research in media class. They make portraits in art class. It’s like a multi-media character study.”

Ballet dancer Misty Copeland (left) and historic almanac author, surveyor and farmer Benjamin Banneker (right) enter the Kilgour gymnasium on red carpet.

At the event, each of the 40 students walked the red carpet into the school gymnasium, dressed as the African American they studied. After being introduced to parents and community members, students sat at tables for tea and conversation.

“Maya, tell me about where you went to school,” one student, who studied Michelle Obama, might ask her classmate, who studied Maya Angelou.

If the table got quiet, students had conversation starters to help cover other topics, such as childhood memories, occupations, places of birth and other interesting facts.

“There’s a lot of learning that goes into this project, but the one thing I hope that sticks is that students recognize the many profound ways African Americans have impacted our society,” said Daniels.

Daniels started the “Conversation and Tea” when he came to Kilgour six years ago. It was so small that it could be held in his classroom. The event has grown every year, with parents and community members volunteering to make it a meaningful learning experience for everyone. Some older students even attend to help announce the characters on the red carpet.

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