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James Island Elementary students to share their perspective on Civil Rights Era with community

Lessons learned about the Civil Rights struggle in the 1960s by fifth-graders at James Island Elementary School (JIES) have turned into an art display that will be available for the community to view at the James Island Cultural Center. Shelby Joffrion, a fifth-grade teacher at JIES, coordinated the effort, which is titled “An Exercise in Empathy.” 

“These children and their families completed an incredible cultural empathy project that is simply breathtaking,” said Joffrion. “We did the program in February, but it is not just another ‘Black History Month’ project. It is so much bigger than that.” 

The display, which will be unveiled to the public on Friday, May 27, 2022, at 5:00 p.m., explores the unique perspective of fifth graders.

Each child chose a photo from the 1960s, researched it, and recreated it. Every student was then asked to interpret what was happening in the photo and how the actions within the image made them feel. 

“When I tell you that the art they submitted is stunning, impactful, and empathetic, it seems like an understatement,” added Joffrion. “I am so proud of them.”

Joffrion made sure to stay in close contact with the students’ parents and guardians for this project.

“Including families in the planning and execution of the assignment is a big reason for this program’s success,” Joffrion said. 

Joffrion added the project aligns with the following state standard:

5.4.CC Analyze the continuities and changes of race relations in the United States and South Carolina following the Supreme Court decisions of Briggs v. Elliott and Brown v. Board of Education. This indicator was developed to promote inquiry into how race relations in the U. S. changed due to the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education. This indicator was also designed to promote inquiry into how the efforts of civil rights groups and leaders helped to promote racial equality throughout the United States.

The JIES students’ display at the James Island Cultural Center will be available through June 17, 2022.

For more information, email Shelby Joffrion at