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Celebrating Black History Month -- Bel Aire Magnet Elementary School
Posted 2/3/23

In honor of Black History Month, we are sharing some of the projects NVUSD students are doing to learn about individuals and groups who have impacted our past and shaped our present.   

Bel Aire Park Magnet Elementary School fifth-grade students in Pam Imbach’s ceramics classes are designing, sculpting, and glazing clay masks, a project inspired by well-known Black artist Kimmy Cantrell. Students learned about Mr. Cantrell’s life, his creative spirit, and the impact of his work and inquired into the techniques Mr. Cantrell utilizes in his own work with clay. They learned how to use found objects to add texture to the background of the masks and how bright colors help depict emotion. Students then set to work on their own pieces.

Bel Aire students work on designing their masks

The student masks will be showcased in Bel Aire Park’s library as a fifth-grade legacy installment and a video about the project will be showcased at the Black History Month Celebration on February 11. The Black History Month event is sponsored by First Five Napa and People B4 Policy. It was founded and organized by James (JT) Thompson, a parent at Bel Aire.

“Mr. Cantrell’s work is a great way to connect Black History Month with our IB Exhibition unit of study on wellness, one of six units of study our students have in 5th grade,” shared 5th-grade teacher Leanna Alcayaga. “Because the IB Exhibition unit is focused on wellness, we actively research, read about, and write about ways to promote wellness. In 2020, the City of Napa declared that racism is a “public health crisis” stating that it is a contributing factor to lifespan and quality of life. “Making others aware of the existence of racism and working on ending it is a part of wellness for everyone,” continued Ms. Imbach. 

Another topic the class has been regularly discussing is joy. Recently, teachers asked students, how they find and share joy? Students shared incredibly thoughtful responses to this question, with many responding that art brings them joy and allows them to bring joy to others. “It brought our discussion full circle to hear Mr. Cantrell share the joy he felt after he completed his third mask and realized that he had a special talent to share with the world,” said Ms. Alcayaga. “We hope our students’ have enjoyed this learning experience and that their video and exhibit provide the entire community with a feeling of joy and empower them to share what they have learned with others.