In honor of Black History Month, the Clemmons Family Farm is releasing “Two Bessies on Two Wheels,” an African-American history curriculum for grades K-5.
The curriculum is available online as part of the nonprofit farm’s Windows to a Multicultural World K-12 program. It features two women who were pioneers in airplane and motorcycle travel: Bessie Coleman, the first African-American and Native American to obtain a pilot’s license, and Bessie Stringfield, the first African-American woman to ride a motorcycle across the United States. Both women broke through barriers of gender and race discrimination to pursue their joy of freedom, travel and adventure.
The online curriculum includes lesson plans and resources from trusted sources for teachers and parents. There are also downloadable worksheets, coloring pages and art projects that enrich students’ learning as they create collages, songs and poems about the two African-American women pioneers in travel.
Clemmons Family Farm approached Vermont singer-songwriter KeruBo to commission a new song that would help bring to life the stories of the two African American women. KeruBo wrote Vroom! which Clemmons Family Farm used to produce an animated video.
“I felt honored to be chosen to write a song about their experiences. These two wonderful, courageous women who were determined to overcome all barriers stacked against them — during a time when discrimination based on race, skin color and gender was legal — ended up becoming icons in U.S. history,” KeruBo said. “It made me delve deeper into the history, music and culture of their era to give me inspiration for Vroom!’s style and genre.”
The song utilizes jazz rhythms of the 1920s through 1940s.
Vroom! is also the subject of a statewide contest for Vermont K-5 classrooms, which are invited to create and submit music video storyboards for the song during Black History Month. The classroom that produces the winning storyboard will work with KeruBo to co-produce and co-star in the music video.
Contest resources include a “Music Video Storyboard Imagination Practice Activity” that helps students learn to create storyboards by reviewing the lyrics, song and a sample storyboard for the Janet Jackson music video Made for Now shared in a downloadable worksheet.
“The ‘now’ generation is so creative. I can’t wait to see what they come up with,” KeruBo adds.
The “Two Bessies on Two Wheels” curriculum and Vroom! music video storyboarding contest are designed to mobilize the arts to help catalyze learning and dialogue about African American history in classrooms, homes and communities. The contest guidelines help K-5 students share the history of Bessie Stringfield and Bessie Coleman with their local communities and discover the motorcycle and airplane adventure stories of their family members, neighbors and other community members. The Wilkins Harley-Davidson dealership in Barre is partnering with Clemmons Family Farm on the Vroom! music video storyboarding contest and will be one of the locations for the filming of the Vroom! music video.
“Wilkins Harley-Davidson is proud to partner with the Clemmons Family Farm to share the story of Bessie Stringfield with grade K-5 Vermont students. Together we hope to inspire these young minds as to what is possible when they are confronted by challenges in their lives,” said John Lyon, co-owner of Wilkins Harley-Davidson. “The story of Besse Stringfield perfectly illustrates the triumph of the human spirit over racial and gender barriers. We cannot think of a better message to deliver to the youth of Vermont.”
Clemmons Family Farm is seeking partners who are in Vermont’s airplane industry to help share news of the curriculum and to provide locations for the filming of parts of the Vroom! music video. Airplane industry representatives are encouraged to reach out to Clemmons Family Farm to discuss opportunities to collaborate on the project.
“Clemmons Family Farm has again produced an excellent learning resource, ready to use by teachers of our youngest learners,” said Clemmons Family Farm board member Steven Berbeco.
The Two Bessies on Two Wheels curriculum is available online for free during Black History Month.