Schools and libraries around Loudoun County are celebrating Black History Month in a variety of ways, all seeking to inform students and county residents about black America's rich cultural heritage.

The Loudoun County library service has set up a display of "dreams" inspired by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 speech in Washington. The display at Middleburg library features poetry, short essays and drawings from Loudoun students on their dreams for the world.

Many schools are holding contests in which students are asked to research the lives of prominent black Americans, with a prize going to the best researched presentation.

The walls of Algonkian Elementary are adorned with posters featuring famous black educators, civil rights activists and artists. Throughout the month students will be asked to identify the people in the portraits and their accomplishments. The prize for the most complete answer? Ice cream.

Sterling Elementary is highlighting the achievements of not only blacks but also Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans during a three-month celebration of "cultural awareness" that began in January, said Assistant Principal Brenda R. Mahone.

Part of the celebration is an essay contest that "allows the students to use their writing skills and at the same time develop their awareness of noteworthy black Americans," Mahone said.

Shows celebrating the lives and works of black Americans are being put on at many schools.

On the last Friday of February, Loudoun County High School will present skits, songs, dance routines and recitations from the works of prominent black historians.

At Banneker Elementary, a play about Benjamin Banneker, the 18th century mathematician and astronomer who helped survey Washington, will be performed later in the month.

Most of the smaller schools are leaving programs celebrating the history of black America up to individual teachers.