After many hands made light work of it, we gathered together all the materials for the March-April Kings Kits. Thanks to the generosity of St. John’s Church Lafayette Square, each BWS scholar got a brand new, latest edition National Geographic Atlas to keep at home. And thanks to the generosity of one particular donor, Ann Wang, the Library organized a Travel Kit full of books, customized notebooks, an animal shaped sleep mask for plane travel and lots of arts and crafts materials to create souvenirs. We planned on using our imagination to travel through the Atlas and visit the marvels of the World.

The scholars first learned how to use a reference book. There are so many components that make the dense text and large size of the book much more accessible. The photos draw you in, so look at the captions for more info. The maps look complicated, so zoom in on the key to know what type of map it is and what each symbol shows you.

Of course, The First Big Book of the World dispenses with the intro quickly and gets to the continents. K-2 has spent one week per continent. With Europe, we focused on the many forests and then heard the music of Peter and the Wolf.

The older students needed a careful walk through the front and back pages of their World Atlas. Skills like reading a map, identifying location by coordinates, focusing in on the key and following statistics help us compare different regions. They learned that the Earth is constantly moving. From its daily rotation and yearly orbit around the sun, the scholars saw photos and maps of the moving plates of land that lead to earthquakes and volcanoes. Man’s imprint on the Earth is clear in this advanced Atlas. Deforestation and Endangered Species were topics that interested the boys most.

We continued in our virtual Library form but 3 out of 4 classes were zoomed from the actual Library each week. It is still a vibrant space with new books arriving each month. Here is the Early Primary area with the newest Coretta Scott King winner for best illustrations: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Carole Boston Weatherford wrote and Frank Morrison illustrated the biography of Aretha Franklin.

We lingered over Asia, which is the largest continent and has the most people. Then we zeroed in on Japan to really feel what it’s like to study another culture, cuisine, religion and language. For the youngest, we drew the comparison with American culture by giving our boys beginner chopsticks that have a rubbery Teddy Bears at the top holding the sticks together. The travel kit also had a sushi eraser for practice. We read several lively folktales from Japan such as Momotaro-Peach Boy and The Samurai Cat. Origami paper for 3-5.

The whole school was given a wooden-framed white paper fan to decorate with pink cherry blossoms or Sakura. We read about the friendship Washington DC has with Tokyo and the special gift they gave our city-thousands of highly prized cherry trees. The boys were to give their flowered fan to someone they love.

Black History Month always arrives just after our celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and a time to honor Civil Rights Activists. This year we took a cue from Mr. Brian Harris’ latest book, We Are Our History and Mr. Williams’ themes of African American history. Our BWS Kings followed the geographic and historic trail back to the royal leaders of ancient African empires, specifically Sundiata and Mansa Musa of Mali. These were amazing leaders who developed vast trade routes and brought peace, faith, wealth and universities to Western Africa starting in the 13th C.

At the beginning of each session, we banged the Djembe drum to create a Story Circle. Even the youngest scholars heard old tales from ancient Africa that answered questions like: How did man learn to get along with animals of the world? Who inspired the first Kente cloth?

The Library created crates full of books for teachers to easily browse. Whenever a teacher informs us of a class research project or theme of study we like to make it accessible and transportable for the busy teachers. Especially now that the staff is in the building only a few days per month, we hope our theme boxes opened up ready resources.

The next theme in our historic march was the Middle Passage. This entailed covering the brutal kidnap and capture of Africans and then their horrific transport across the Atlantic Ocean. The older scholars heard and saw pictures of this passage, especially through Julius Lester’s The Old African history book.

All ages learned of another Passage and that is the one that led out of slavery. We followed Harriet Tubman from childhood to the latest declaration that she will replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. We learned of Philip Reid who learned about working with bronze and gold from a slave born in West Africa. He helped piece together the huge bronze statue of Freedom that still sits atop the Capitol Building. And we followed all of this history and more in Kadir Nelson’s award winning Heart and Soul, a detailed fictionalized retelling of the story of African ancestry in America. As always, he poured his heart into the vivid illustrations.