First thing’s first- Black history is American history. It’s not a topic that should only be touched on in February then ignored the rest of the year, but should be taught year round and incorporated into daily history lessons in the classroom and at home. For example if you’re teaching about moon travel, you could read “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly and discuss the contributions of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden in getting a rocket to the moon or if you’re learning about the history of baseball you could read a book about Jackie Robinson. It’s something we should be mindful of in our classrooms on a day to day basis. Reading multicultural books (books that incorporate characters from diverse backgrounds) is important too- think stories with a rainbow of characters, rather than just all white. That being said, with a 2 and 4 year old we really don’t do many lessons on American history just yet, so I thought it was still important to take a week and focus in on the accomplishments, struggles, and triumphs of Black Americans. Don’t forget to march over to my toddler post “God Made a Rainbow” for more fun ideas that celebrate diversity and Black contributions to society like washer tap shoes and multicultural bean sensory play.
–Literacy: Each day for literacy we focused on the accomplishments of different African Americans by reading books about them. Before beginning, we discussed what an accomplishment is and I gave some examples (like when my little learned to ride is bike with no training wheels). I also wrote down the accomplishments my little mentioned each day on a coordinating graphic organizer I’d made.
-George Washington Carver:
-Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson Dr. Christine Darden:
-Black history month booklist: Most of these books are nonfiction, but a few are fictional stories that teach about the era of slavery and the civil rights movement. “Let the Children March” brought me to tears- I was never taught about that in school.
-Martin Luther King Jr. roll and cover: I printed this MLK roll and cover game from Teachers Pay Teachers, then had my little roll a dice and say/cover each number with a heart (because Martin said, “Hate cannot drive out hate- only love can do that.” so I thought that made sense! We used our plastic “rock” hearts from our Valentine’s and Grinch lessons, but you can just cut out paper ones too if you don’t have those on hand!)
-Martin Luther King Jr. number puzzle: I printed this MLK number puzzle from Teachers Pay Teachers, laminated it, cut it out, then had my little put the pieces in order using the numbers on each strip.
-Rosa Parks bus ramp slide and measure: We did this on the day we read the book about Rosa Parks- I got out our Little People toy school bus (wrong kind of bus, I know, but we had it on hand) and built a small ramp by placing one end of a cutting board on the top of a toy truck we have (a stack of books will work too!) then letting my little roll the bus down the chair. Each time we measured how far it went using a tape measure. I went over each digit with him and the value (ie. for 180 I would say 1 hundred, 8 tens, and 0 ones makes 180 while pointing to each digit.)
-Shape moon rocket: Katherine Johnson was a mathematician who worked on getting American astronauts into orbit and then to the moon by perfectly calculating their trajectories. To celebrate her accomplishment, we made moon rockets out of shapes. I just cut out the parts (lots of rectangles and trapezoids!) then used the names of the shapes to instruct my little how to put them together. We did this activity on the same day we read the book “Hidden Figures” for reading.
–Social Studies: Each day for social studies we read a story that taught about an influential African American who aided in freeing people from slavery or worked for Civil Rights. When we were finished each book, I had my little tell me what they did and how it helped black Americans gain Civil Rights and we wrote it on a chart.
-Harriet Tubman: This story is historical fiction- parts of it are true, and parts are from the author’s imagination. We discussed this genre of story and made sure to read the author’s note at the beginning that separates fact from fiction. I also had my little watch a PBS Kids episode of Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum on Harriet Tubman (it’s based on the book “I Am Harriet Tubman” so you could always just read that book instead! I just had this one on hand).
-Martin Luther King Jr: the title of this one is Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport.
-Ruby Bridges: The end of this book is SO SWEET- I was crying. What a brave, Christ-like little girl! We definitely will be buying this one!
-Skin color mixing and peg people painting: For this activity I put some different skin tones on a paper plate then let my little experiment by mixing them to create different skin tones. Once he had one he liked, he painted a peg doll with that color (when it was dry I had him paint the bottom a color of his choice for the doll’s clothes.) You can get the peg dolls on Amazon!
-“I have a dream” handprint craft: After reading “Martin’s Big Words” for social studies, we did this craft from Sweet Kindergarten. I just folded the sides of a sheet of paper in to make a door, then had my little do a white and brown handprint on the front. Then we discussed Martin’s dream that all Americans would live together in peace and equality, and what the word “dream” means in that context (my little was thinking it was a dream like when you’re asleep! LoL I explained it was something you want to see happen, or something you want to do- like when Rapunzel wants to go see the floating lanterns in “Tangled”). I had him tell me what his dream is and I wrote it inside the flaps.
-Alma Thomas mosaic art: First we looked at some artwork by Alma Thomas, an renowned African American art teacher and painter. Then we recreated her circular mosaic art by using do-a-dot markers. First you make a dot in the center of a paper. Then you use different colors to make dots in circles around the center dot- I made one too! It was a lot of fun and came out so pretty!
- toy school bus
- cookie sheet or cutting board
- do-a-dot markers
- plastic heart “rocks”
- wooden peg dolls