Here is a multi-layered Black History Month project that you can do with your upper elementary/middle school students. Pick the layer you’re comfortable with — or have time for — and go to town.
LAYER 1 introduces students to this cream-of-the-crop website, The Undefeated 44, that has portraits and short biographical pieces of prominent African Americans. Staff at ESPN created the site. They capped inclusions at 44 because Barack Obama was our country’s 44th president. You can simply share selections using a video projector or ask students to read on their own.
Here’s why I recommend this site:
- ESPN’s rationale for inclusion is “blacks who shook up the world or at least their corner of it.”
- It digs into the past but also includes living representatives.
- The list of names includes both men and women from various cultural, athletic, political, and artistic fields.
- It is a particularly attractive site; full screen with side by side text and dramatic illustrations. It has no unattractive side matter or pop ups.
- The writing is engaging.
LAYER 2 offers an activity that develops research, writing, presentation, and debate skills. Have students read the site’s intro and as many of the bios as they’d like, but at least enough to come away with a good understanding of what ESPN meant by shaking up the world. Then have students work with a partner to nominate an additional person to be included on the site. Their nominee can be anyone, even a family member, but the nominee must have had an impact beyond the student’s immediate family and be researchable (articles in the local paper, able to be interviewed, etc.) Each team presents its choice highlighting their nominee’s contributions. When all teams have presented, the class debates who will be the female(s) and and the male(s) added to the site.
LAYER 3 requires a computer science lab with Photoshop and a computer science teacher to help your students. Each student team can create a Vector Art image similar to the style used for The Undefeated 44, African Americans Who Shook Up the World.
Photoshop | How to Create Cartoon Effect | Vector Art (Easy trick) is a YouTube video that can help guide the artistic component of this activity.
Full disclosure, I did not find the video easy to follow and, in fact, had to stop the video at several points to see which Photoshop tool the narrator was choosing, as well as, how he was using it. I don’t think the project is too complicated for middle school students, especially those with some experience with Photoshop, but Vector Art requires patience.