M.A.S.T.R. Kids’ Black-N-Wax exhibit immersed kids into history

The Shirley Proctor Puller Foundation M.A.S.T.R. Kids Program Black-N-Wax Black History Month exhibit at John Hopkins Middle School was a huge success! Pictured The Jackson Five.


ST. PETERSBURG — The Math-Art-Science-Technology-Reading (M.A.S.T.R.) Kids Afterschool Program pulled out all the stops with its Black-N-Wax Black History Month celebration on Feb. 29 at John Hopkins Middle School.

At first glance, the cafeteria was filled with Black historical figures in wax frozen in time, but on a closer look, you could see the smiling and laughing faces of elementary school M.A.S.T.R. Kids Program participants.

At each station, the kiddos stood framed in time until a button atop a table was pushed. Actually, the button was a piece of construction paper marked “Push.” Once museumgoers pressed the button, the wax figures came to life and spouted a few short facts about their lives.

Students researched notable African Americans in history and transformed themselves into their heroes. Pictured is Oscar Devereaux Micheaux, regarded as the first major African-American feature filmmaker.

Keisha Snead, academic director for the Shirley Proctor Puller Foundation M.A.S.T.R. Kids Program, created the museum to immerse scholars in what they can see for themselves in the future. The students researched notable African Americans in history and transformed themselves into that figure with accoutrements to boot.

“I wanted them to take away from the assignment that the sky’s the limit. They can be and dream big and be whatever they want,” said Snead.

She created the first exhibition on a smaller scale last year at the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church site, but Snead found it hard to find participants. However, this year, more than 160 students joined the fun.

“I had them think about it from a different perspective,” explained the former elementary educator. “Find somebody who resonates with you. If you think you want to be a movie producer, let’s find a movie producer. If you want to be a marine biologist, let’s find a marine biologist.”

Once the kids made the connection and learned about the historical figure’s plight, they realized they had things in common. The connection to their figure made them want to share their newfound knowledge and made it easier to memorize facts.

This year, museumgoers learned about such figures as Henry Arthur Callis, the founder of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, civil rights activist Mae Mallory, Marie Van Brittan Brown, the inventor of the first home security system, and many more.

Next year, Snead will have another wax museum exhibition using only local historical figures. St. Pete is full of Black history, from city pioneers (John Donaldson, Elder Jordan, Sr.) to the Civil Rights Movement (Ralph Wimbish, Dr. Rober Swain, Jr.) to famous people in film, music, and sports.

“There are so many notable people that were born and raised right here. Everybody we research next year will be from St. Petersburg.

To learn more about the M.A.S.T.R. Kids Afterschool and Summer programs, visit sppf.org.

About the Math-Art-Science-Technology-Reading program

The Shirley Proctor Puller Foundation (SPPF) aims to advance reading, math and science literacy, helping to close the achievement gap for children in the at-risk communities of St. Pete.

The Math-Art-Science-Technology-Reading (M.A.S.T.R.) after-school program addresses SPPF’s mission of advancing literacy and helping close the achievement gap. The students are active, although it is not a recreational program. Program facilitators understand the connection between physical and cognitive development.

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