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Learning Activity: Black History Month

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(CNN Student News) -- Use these activities to encourage your students to learn about and appreciate the history, culture and achievements of African-Americans.

1. Black History Museum

Celebrate black history by creating plans for a local Black History Museum. First, have students decide where the museum should be housed. Suggestions might include a school or local library, an exhibit in an existing history museum or perhaps a virtual online museum. Next, discuss how the museum should be organized. Students may choose to categorize the content by theme, by specific time periods, by specific dates, by people or by local landmarks. Then, challenge students to consider what people, events or contributions to include in their Black History Museum. Ask: Will it be interactive? Will it offer multimedia elements? What messages or lessons do you want visitors to take away from the exhibits?

2. Covering Black History

Ask students: What if CNN correspondents had been on the scene to record key moments in black history for the entire world to see? Organize students into small teams of reporters, and have each team select a time period in American history and a key figure or event that helped to define that time period for African-Americans. Then, have students imagine that CNN was there to cover the historical figure or event. (You may need to remind students that CNN did not exist at the time.) Ask: How do you think that CNN reporters might have covered these stories? For example, reporters might have conducted interviews, gathered footage of key events, produced stories on the events or people or had newsmakers as guests on live programs. Encourage the teams to write scripts for news stories on their historical figures and events. After students have presented their stories, have them compare their reports to eyewitness accounts and local newspaper reports that were written at the time.

3. Not Just for February

Inform students that, while Dr. Carter G. Woodson chose the month of February to recognize the accomplishments of African-Americans, black history can be celebrated all year long. Challenge students to create yearlong calendars or timelines that highlight the contributions of African-American newsmakers, illustrate key events in black history and encourage an ongoing celebration of black culture.

4. Profiles in Black History

Do your students show personal interest in science, music, politics, theater, sports, art or education? Inspire them to celebrate the contributions of African-Americans by having them select profiles of African-Americans in the categories that interest them. For example, a budding young scientist might choose to profile the inventor of the ironing board, the lawn mower or the space shuttle retrieval arm, all of whom were/are African-Americans. Direct your students to online and print resources, and have them conduct research on their chosen profiles. Then, encourage students to write proposals to have their selected persons commemorated in new postage stamps. Students should accompany their proposals with the designs for the stamps. In their presentations, students should try to convince classmates why their profiled persons should have a stamp created in their name. Post the designs around the classroom.

5. Local African-American History

Valuable lessons in black history may be found just a few steps away in the stories and documents that can be found in local libraries, historical organizations, universities or colleges and online. Encourage students to venture out into the community to investigate the history and the contributions of black Americans in their city or town. Students might choose to use milestones in black history as a way to organize their research, gathering information on how those events impacted the community and its residents. They may also decide to profile influential black community members. Have students invite community members to a celebration of local black history.

Correlations to National Standards

Social Studies

Standard I. Culture: Students will learn about culture and cultural diversity.

Standard II. Time, Continuity and Change: Students will learn about the ways human beings view themselves in and over time.

Standard V. Individuals, Groups and Institutions: Students will explore how institutions (e.g. schools, churches, families, government agencies) are formed, what controls and influences them, how they control and influence individuals and culture and how institutions can be maintained or changed.

Standard VI. Power, Authority and Governance: Students will understand the historical development of structures of power, authority and governance and their evolving functions in contemporary U.S. society as well as other parts of the world.

Standard X. Civic Ideals and Practices: Students will examine the ideals, principles and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic.

The Curriculum Standards for Social Studies ( link)are published by the National Council for Social Studies ( link).



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