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Laurel Third-Graders Create Civil Rights Museum

The girls say they want to help educate their parents and other adults about the Civil Rights Movement in a "fun, but serious way."

Leave it to a group of 8- and 9-year-olds to dispel the historical falsities found in some books aimed at readers in their age bracket.

"(Some children's literature books) said Rosa Parks was a tired, old woman when she sat on the bus," said Evelyn Havre, a third-grade student at Laurel School. "She was tired, but tired of being treated wrong."

Her classmate Talia Scott added: "She wasn't really physically tired ... and she was only 42."

The girls put those findings and more into a small museum that goes on display today at their school.

Third-grade curriculum calls for learning about museums, so teachers Karen Yusko and Tamika Ellis settled on having the girls create their own exhibits based on the Civil Rights Movement. The students began preparing for the museum months ago when they were assigned summer reading titles about the plight of African-Americans.

In all, 26 third-grade girls have created 14 exhibits that focus on cases like Brown vs. the Board of Education and key figures like James Meredith and Thurgood Marshall.

The girls will present their exhibits to visiting family members and staff today. Many of them are excited to show off what they learned, especially when they consider the hard work they put in.

"There was a lot of pressure because I wasn't sure everyone was going to finish on time," said third-grader Emme Coy, whose project centered on key events that took place in Alabama.

"There was so much to do, and then we have to present. There was a lot we needed to get done."

The girls had been working with April Kay Post, director of education at the Shaker Heights Historical Society. Yusko said the girls' exhibit might be featured at the Historical Society in the near future and at the school's Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

"We were trying to not just make this a one-month thing," Yusko said of studying African-American history. "We were trying to do something that was interesting to us."

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