February is the month for love and celebrating the contributions of African Americans to the fabric of the United States. There are many ways that teachers can celebrate the contributions of African Americans and help their students understand the importance of these contributions to the United States; here are five:
1. Person of the Day Bulletin Board/Daily Warm Up
At the beginning of the month, put up a blank bulletin board with a calendar drawn on it. For every day of the month, introduce students to a little known, very important African American. Individuals highlighted should have made a major contribution to the culture of the United States. As you introduce, them place their picture on the bulletin board. At the end of the month, have students go back through and choose one person to write about and tell how their story impacted them in some way.
2. Create a quilt
Quilts were very important to the activity of the Underground Railroad and often acted as maps to freedom. Teach students the history of these quilts and their designs. Then, create a classroom quilt celebrating the importance and meaning of quilts in the African American experience.
3. Readers’ Theater
Readers’ Theater is a unique experience in a classroom. It combines content and drama to create a lasting impact on students. There are a variety of Readers’ Theater scripts about aspects of African American history including the case of the Amistad, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Tuskegee Airmen. Use these to make events “come to life” for students.
4. I Have a Dream… Bulletin Board
Explore Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s life and contributions to the United States. Show students his I Have a Dream … speech and then have them think about what their dream for the future is. Have them write their dreams and post their writings on a bulletin board with their photos.
5. Wax Museum/Parent Night
Have each student research a famous African American and become that person. They should write a short biography of their subject and then turn into the person through costumes and props. Host a family night where parents can tour the “wax museum” and discover fun new facts about these historical figures. Students should be still and let their costumes and bios do the talking!
The study of African American History cannot be cut to fit into one month of learning only; however, Black History Month can give teachers the opportunity to shine a spotlight on individuals and events that otherwise may go unnoticed in American History. Students’ eyes can be opened to the possibilities and abilities of all citizens to make a difference in the world around them.