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Black History Month: Learning Activities

  • February is Black History Month
  • Use these activities to help students learn about the history, culture and achievements of African-Americans
  • Adapt these questions and activities to accommodate students of different grade levels and learning styles

(CNN Student News) -- February 2, 2011

February is Black History Month. Use the learning activities below to help your students learn about the achievements, culture and history of African-Americans. You may want to adapt each activity to accommodate students of different grades and learning levels. Stay tuned to CNN Student News for stories and segments focusing on Black History Month throughout February.

Profiles in Black History

Do your students show a personal interest in science, music, business, politics, entertainment, sports or education? Inspire them to celebrate the contributions of African-Americans by having them write 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 resources and have them conduct research on their chosen individuals. Have students create interactive presentations telling the stories of these individuals and their contributions.

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 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.

A Milestone in U.S. History

Remind students that in 2008, they witnessed a truly historic event: the inauguration of Barack Obama as the first African-American U.S. president. Ask students: What will you remember most about this milestone? What do you want future generations to know about it? Challenge students to write letters to future young Americans, describing President Obama's inauguration and its significance for all Americans. Combine the letters into a book or create a video of students reading their letters. Present the book or recording to your school's historian or media specialist for archiving.

News Coverage of Black History

Pose this question to 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. 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 air and on the web.) Direct the teams to write scripts for news stories on their historical figures and events. After students have presented their scripts, have them compare their reports to eyewitness accounts and local newspaper reports that were written at the time.