St. Francis International School celebrated Maryland Day on March 31 with presentations by its fourth grade class on famous Marylanders. Above, Cyndie Jean is dressed up as Margaret Brent as she speaks about the notable colonial woman.
CS Photo Rafael Crisostomo
St. Francis International School celebrated Maryland Day on March 31 with presentations by its fourth grade class on famous Marylanders. Above, Cyndie Jean is dressed up as Margaret Brent as she speaks about the notable colonial woman. CS Photo Rafael Crisostomo
For one morning, on March 31, Billie Holiday, Frederick Douglass, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Lord Baltimore, Nancy Pelosi, and other notable figures in Maryland's history, were in one room together. That auspicious occasion was during Maryland Day at St. Francis International School in Silver Spring.

The school's fourth graders dressed up as famous Marylanders and sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "Maryland, My Maryland" for much of the student body before going to their stations at tables in the school hall where they had set up poster board displays about the historical figures they were representing. Parents, students and teachers went around and listened as each fourth grader spoke as their noted person.

Ike Leggett, the Montgomery County Executive, also stopped by and visited with each fourth grader. He said that the Maryland Day project "connects history to what's happening today," because the students can compare the historical figures they are learning about with today's notable Marylanders. "It's not just history in isolation; it's history in context," Leggett said. He remarked on how impressive the students' knowledge of their subjects was, which showed their "commitment, dedication and focus."

At one table, Adeyinka King spoke softly as she portrayed St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, talking about how she established the Sisters of Charity and St. Joseph School in Emmitsburg. King broke character to say that she admired the first American saint because "she started a school to support Catholic girls' education."

A few tables over, Mario Camara was dressed as Mathias de Sousa, who was an African-Portuguese man who arrived with Maryland's first settlers in 1634 on the Ark as an indentured servant for the Jesuits and eventually worked as a free man in that colony. Camara said he picked de Sousa because "he looked very interesting" and that he liked finding in his research a piece of poetry attributed to de Sousa.
Several fourth graders were assigned research on Maryland government, history and symbols. Elena Visoso was dressed as the state flower, the Black-Eyed Susan, wearing a yellow petal headband and green outfit. Visoso learned about the state's symbols like the flower and the state gem, the Patuxent River Stone, which she said was neat because it's only found in Maryland and is red and yellow like the state colors. "I loved learning what is special about Maryland," she said.

Students had props and impressive costumes: Nonso Dungar made a telescope for his role as early African American scientist Benjamin Banneker, Jonathan Martin wore an impressive cloud of puffy white hair and a beard as he portrayed Frederick Douglass, and Belane Ayelework was dressed in 21st professional attire as Maryland's U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski.

The mother of fourth grader Shanay Russell, Jolene Russell, said the project was interesting not only to the kids but to her as a parent. "I'm an immigrant from Jamaica so working on the project with my daughter, I learned a lot," she said.

Of the Maryland Day activities, fourth grade teacher Harolyn Slaughter said, "I think they get more out of it doing research themselves then me standing up there and talking."