Black History is rich with heroes whose perseverance, courage, persistence, and goodness are perfect to share with even our youngest learners.
Without knowledge of history the world, for a young child, is a very small place. Black History provides our students with wonderful models of people who persevered in some of the most difficult situations. And we believe that teaching Black History to first and second graders will open their worlds and their hearts.
Our heroes in Black History may have been born at a time when our world was unjust and unfair to African Americans, but they did not let that define them. Instead, they moved forward, broke barriers, and achieved their goals against the odds.
Here are 4 reasons to teach Black History to young children.
1. To Teach Perseverance
Perseverance is such a critical character trait to have at school and in life.
We don’t want our children to give up when faced with failure or obstacles.
We want our children to get back up and try again when they don’t succeed.
We want them to look at a challenging task with the determination and belief that they can do it…whatever it is.
If Harriet Tubman can travel 90 miles in the dark, primarily by foot, guided by the North Star to freedom, then go back and do it again and again to save her loved ones, children can learn to not give up on virtually anything they put their minds to.
Learning about Harriet inspires us to persevere.
Through her sheer determination, she left the world of slavery and helped many others to leave that world as well. She has proven to us that if we are focused on a goal, and we put all we have into achieving that goal, it can be done with hard work, heart, and determination.
2. To Teach Courage
Young children are oftentimes fearful of many things: What if nobody likes me? What if I share my answer at school and it’s wrong? What if I fall when I’m trying to learn to ride my bike?
Courage helps children learn to hold their heads high and face the unknown.
It helps them to bravely approach situations where they might be nervous or fearful, such as sharing an answer in class when there is a possibility of it being wrong.
Once they realize that it’s okay to be wrong, the fear begins to fade.
Just like the Cowardly Lion realized he had courage within himself, we want our students to see that they do too.
We can teach courage by exposing our students to courageous role models.
Take Ruby Bridges for instance. At the tender age of 6, she showed unimaginable courage and unshakable faith as she began to break boundaries in our American school system.
If six-year-old Ruby can walk past a mob of angry protesters who yelled and threw things at her day after day because she was determined to get the education that she deserved; then children today can certainly face their fears.
Additionally, through this historical event children begin to appreciate things that they might take for granted, like going to school.
Young learners connect with the journey of Ruby Bridges because of her age.
They are shocked to learn that going to school today is so different than it was in the past. They are thankful that when they look around their classroom it is filled with children who have various experiences and backgrounds, and they learn to appreciate the richness of the world they are in.
3. To Teach Peaceful Problem Solving
Life is full of problem-solving opportunities, big and small. It’s critical that children learn to solve problems, but it’s also important for them to learn peaceful ways to do so. Martin Luther King Jr. epitomized peaceful problem-solving.
Martin Luther King Jr. and his persistence to make substantial changes in a world that, at the time, was so unjust is hard for young learners to imagine. They are intrigued, shocked, and disappointed when they learn how people were treated solely by the color of their skin.
After all, young learners are all about fairness.
Developmentally, that is an enormous part of their world – “That’s not fair!” is a phrase we hear all too often in our classrooms and our homes. So, when they learn that people couldn’t go to certain restaurants because of the color of their skin, they become unglued.
It’s hard for them to wrap their brain around such a thing. They will say things like “That’s crazy!” or “That doesn’t make any sense!”. And they are right. It is crazy and it doesn’t make any sense, but it did happen.
Through the journey of Martin Luther King Jr. children learn that just because something is a certain way, it doesn’t have to stay that way.
They learn that change can be made in a peaceful, loving way. Martin Luther King Jr. paved the way for dramatic changes in American history and did it all through peaceful interactions.
4. To Nurture Lifelong Learning
Of course, we want our students to become lifelong learners. We hope that as they progress through the years they grow into adults who continue to wonder, explore, investigate, and learn. What better way to encourage this than to show historical figures that exemplify lifelong learning?
George Washington Carver, scientist and inventor was a lifelong seeker of knowledge who never passed up an opportunity to learn and grow. He was especially interested in plants and became a botanist who invented hundreds of products using peanuts, sweet potatoes, and soybeans.
He discovered systems that produced healthier plants, and he shared his knowledge freely with others. George Washington Carver proved to be a tremendous help to poor farmers in the south. While he had opportunities to make great amounts of money, he had no interest in that.
He was much more interested in exploring his curiosities and helping others.
When children learn of people like George Washington Carver, their world opens yet again.
They realize that learning is so much more than going to school. This man was learning, creating, inventing, and discovering throughout his entire life.
Black History Month was established to give us an opportunity to learn about, recognize and celebrate the achievements of African American pioneers who experienced unfathomable injustices and/or obstacles in life and persevered.
It is rich in the spirit of humanity.
Through Black History we learn so much about ourselves and our abilities to overcome challenges – big and small.
We learn to reason and wonder about things morally. We also learn from the mistakes people made in the past and learn the importance of treating others with compassion.
We learn to be givers and helpers.
Our minds and hearts grow as we journey through time and learn about these strong, fascinating heroes.
Your students will be fascinated by the lives of these trail-blazing African Americans.
Click on the links above for units that include engaging and interactive content-rich books, colorful vocabulary cards, content-focused poems/songs, writing activities and art/craft lessons.
Your students will be happily engaged in rigorous reading experiences while learning about historical pioneers who helped make positive changes to our world.
We also offer a Black History Month Bundle at a significant discount.
Black History Month is truly one of our favorite times of the year. We would love to hear from you.
Who are your favorite African American heroes? Which ones connect the most with your students and why?
Wishing you Joyful Engagement in your Classroom.