In the One Book/One School project, teenagers are discussing "A Wreath for Emmett Till," a book of poems by Marilyn Nelson, in a weeklong project that involves films, art and writing, discussion, and a live conversation with the author.
"I think a lot of the teachers are excited about it, and we hope the students will be as well," says Linda Schroeder, a member of the high school reading comprehension committee.
The death of Till, a Chicago teenager who was murdered in August 1955 while visiting relatives in Mississippi, galvanized the civil rights movement and energized the American Civil Rights Movement.
On Monday, all GHS students watched a film clip from the civil rights documentary "Eyes on the Prize" to introduce the topic. And today, students will be introduced to activities for the week and conduct class discussion of Monday's film clip.
On Wednesday, all GHS students will attend a Readers' Theater presentation of the book "A Wreath for Emmett Till," directed by Beth Girton with the cooperation of GHS theater students. The presentation is open to the public.
Discussion of the 25-minute production will follow, and students will embark upon a school-wide thematic writing contest. An art competition in association with the writing will look for the best illustrations of the winning writing pieces.
But the highlight of the week could be the evening activities Wednesday promoting understanding of the book. Author Nelson will appear via broadcast for a brief presentation. She will then receive questions from the audience.
"It's exciting," Schroeder said, "because we have the live video conversation with the author, and she really wants the kids to ask questions."
On Thursday and Friday, the students and teachers will continue discussion of civil rights issues, as well as complete their writing and art projects.
Schroeder said that while the One Book/One School project goes along with Black History Month, it also reaches across the school curriculum into English, social studies and science.
"That way we could get all of the teachers on board and really work with it," Schroeder said.
The project is supported by a donations from The Wood Group, and by the work of Beth Girton in directing the Readers' Theater; LaVonne Dodson's family and consumer science classes for planning, preparing and serving refreshments; Robin Johnson in coordinating art activities; library media specialist Margo Thomas, principal Jim Church, and the reading committee members.
"A Wreath for Emmett Till" is a collection of poems, but it is unique in that the last line of each poem is the first line of the next poem. The last poem is comprised of the first line of all the other poems.
Author Nelson has received numerous book awards. She is a professor of English at the University of Connecticut.
Wednesday evening's activities also include small book discussion groups, a 60-minute video about Till, and refreshments appropriate to the period and region of the book. The public is encouraged to attend.