5 Ideas for Celebrating Black History Month with Your Kids
Feb 14, 2012
February is Black History Month, which is a great chance to celebrate the achievements and history of African Americans with your kids. One of the best things you can do is find activities that bring these critical figures and moments from history into the present. Here are five Black History Month activities for you and your kids.
1. Celebrate the Inventors
Your child may not realize the extent to which African Americans have played a central role in the shaping of American life. To acknowledge the contributions of African American inventors during Black History Month, work with your child to compile a list of their notable inventions. You can then go on a scavenger hunt as you try to gather as many of the items as possible.
Among the inventions that your child may most appreciate are peanut butter, the ice cream scoop and the modern bicycle frame. While perhaps less exciting to most kids, African American inventors are also credited with the pacemaker, the gas mask, the ironing board and the electronic traffic signal, which is something you can be reminded of each time you hit a string of green lights.
2. Learn Through Food
Especially with younger children, a great hands-on activity to celebrate Black History Month is creating a feast of popular foods in the African American community. For many families, this can be an excellent opportunity to try new foods. Popular African American foods include dishes that originated in Africa, adaptations of European or Native American foods and other various hybrids of many cultures. For examples of vegetables and beans, you could prepare okra, collard greens, black-eyes peas or sweet potatoes.
Preparing foods for Black History Month can also be a chance to learn about African American history. During the era of slavery, African Americans needed to be resourceful with less desirable ingredients and cuts of meat. You can learn about this by cooking collard greens with ham hock or by making chitlins, which are boiled or fried pig intestines.
3. Create a Biography
Your child can choose a historical figure and create a biography of him or her. From Frederick Douglass to Barack Obama, there are countless African Americans with fascinating and important contributions to American life. This activity involves research, which may include a trip to the library, Internet reading or viewing documentaries.
The biography could be written as an essay, timeline or other form that encapsulates the figure's life. For example, the life of Malcolm X includes an amazing array of events that may be most easily understood along a timeline. For children with a passion for visual arts, suggest making a video, a drawing or a diorama that represents a notable event in the figure's life. It could be Rosa Parks sitting in the front of the bus or Jesse Owens competing at the 1936 Olympics.
4. Research Your Family's History
While celebrating Black History Month, it should become apparent how intertwined African American history is with that of all Americans. Therefore, it's an excellent time to research your own family's history. This could involve creating a family tree, connecting with relatives and exploring photo albums or historical records.
While your family lineage may not include any African Americans, your child could interview elderly relatives about their memories of important events in African American history, including the Civil Rights Movement. If your child can trace your family's history back to its immigration into the United States, consider contrasting that experience with how many African Americans arrived in this country through the slave trade. It's important to note that not all African Americans' ancestors were slaves; a familiar example to highlight this lesson is Barack Obama, whose father was from Kenya.
5. Take a Trip
If you're looking for an adventure during Black History Month, consider taking your family on a trip to a historical site. If you're interested in studying the Civil Rights Movement, you could visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C. There is also Dr. King's birthplace in Atlanta, which is a National Historic Site.
There are many other interesting locations throughout the country. For example, Congo Square in New Orleans is a location where slaves were once bought and sold, though it's now a center for African American cultural events. You could also take a driving tour of sites from the Underground Railroad; there are places you can visit throughout states such as Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and New York.
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