As we move together toward the holidays and the end of the year, we want to give you a little peek into one of our most recent events on the campus of the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough.
Throughout the second week of November, ISC welcomed groups of very excited fifth graders to its annual Kids Institute, an immersive cultural learning experience that combines learning with exposure to the performing arts.
Now in its third year, Kids Institute is part of ISC’s suite of free programs that serves our region’s young people, many of whom don’t have easy access to cultural institutions and concerts.
This year, we worked with Reverend Robert B. Jones, a deeply gifted storyteller and musician based in Detroit, to develop an inspirational program that was both entertaining and educational.
His fully interactive program, “The Oak Ridge 85: A Tennessee Civil Rights Story,” introduced the students to an episode of history that many Americans haven’t heard about. In 1955, Oak Ridge, Tennessee became one of the first schools in the country to fully integrate Black and white students. It was a great, but unpublicized, success. Quietly and joyfully, these students worked together to change the face of American education.
But the story of the Oak Ridge 85 didn’t gain traction in its time because Oak Ridge was a “secret city,” a community that had been specially built by the federal government around the clandestine Manhattan Project.
With popular music from the era and interactive activities for the kids, Jones contextualized important milestones in the Civil Rights movement and asked the students to think hard about what made the Oak Ridge project so successful when so many other schools in the South struggled to meet the moment.
Jones’s program was keyed to the state’s academic standards in social studies, fine arts, and English to support the subjects that kids are learning about in school. The fifth graders and their teachers went away with new perspectives on important pieces of regional and national history.
Your generous support is what makes ISC’s youth initiatives possible, including Kids Institute, free and subsidized tickets, and our programs for at-risk and underserved young people. Thank you for keeping ISC in mind for Giving Tuesday and your end-of-year giving in mind. Learn more here.