Apr. 7, 2021 -- Combine a child’s natural curiosity about space travel with the very real history of both racism and sexism in this country and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a successful One School, One Book experience.
Oxford students, staff and families are all diving deep into the history of the Space Race and the critical role that African American women played in getting the United States into outer space as they read variations of Hidden Figures.
The months-long project, which blasted off on March 5, was organized by Title I Literacy Specialist Michelle Bee, who looked at dozens of titles before settling on this one. The school’s kindergarten through 2nd graders were each given their own copy of Hidden Figures: A Picture Book, while the 3rd through 5th graders each received a copy of Hidden Figures: Young Authors’ Edition.
The combination of science, math (“These women were the human computers,” says Ms. Bee), history and just great storytelling make this a perfect selection. Students are learning about everything from the Cold War and Sputnik to Mach 5 and breaking the sound barrier, tied in with the personal stories of Black women making it in a field largely reserved for white men. It doesn’t hurt that their principal Jackie Taylor, has a science background and used to work for NASA.
Because the book is long with lots of advanced vocabulary and concepts, Ms. Bee arranged for guest readers to come into Oxford and record themselves reading one of the 23 chapters. Everyone from classroom teachers to community leaders, Heights alumni and district administrators have stepped up to participate. Superintendent Elizabeth Kirby will read the final chapter of the book.
Given the complexities of teaching this year and the constant shifts in schedules and format, Ms. Bee worked hard to not pile anything extra onto the already full plates of Oxford’s teachers. She set up two Google classrooms (one for K-2 and another for 3-5) that any student in the building can access that include the chapter read-alouds, links to related materials, explicit vocabulary words and so on.
The One School, One Book experience will culminate in May when Oxford offers a modified outdoor Literacy Night for students and their families, which will end with a drive-in movie viewing of the award-winning Hidden Figures motion picture.