Do you want a better way to get lots of little people excited about historical figures? Create a "Can Biography Report" museum using clean, empty cans from your (and your students') kitchen cupboard. It's a quick and creative way to get students in kindergarten through third grade discovering and remembering myriad heroes. Try this for African-American History Month or for Women's History Month.
Montclair New Jersey educators Dana Bauer, Erica Daniel, Johnna Gilbert, Kerry Goldsack, Kim, Lane, Khalida Lewis, Sharon Mulvaney, and Stephanie Santiago devised a plan to get their first graders talking about leadership and diversity — and it worked. (To date, my son and I have made three cans in three days.) They suggest that students, with the help of their families create "can biography reports." Here's how:
1. Conduct online research, read a biography or great picture books on an African-American inventor, astronaut, or other hero. (A list of suggested leaders and instructions for the research project were sent home to parents.)
2. Grab yarn, fabric scraps, or construction paper and make a coffee can look like a hero from the biographical research.
3. Write a minimum of five sentences (juicy facts and interesting or little known details) on heavy cardstock. Cut each sentence into its own strip. The Montclair team suggests numbering the strips in the order that they are to be read.
4. Put strips in the can and have mini-authors practice reading their canned presentation.
5. Finally, bring completed cans to school to meet and greet a multitude of African-American leaders or record-breakers. The cans can be presented during a culminating gallery walk and during morning meetings.
What unusual ideas do you have to get families talking about African-American history?
Last year I wrote about the Because of Them, We Can Campaign, Eunique Jones Gibson's mission to inspire and motivate youngsters. For more inventive Black History Month ideas, check out my post on Gibson's "Contemporary Images for Black History Month" or "Rosa Parks — the Movie! 7 Questions for Substantive Conversation."
If your history project is as simple as a coffee can that gets a community talking or as grand as Gibson's media campaign, which was adopted by the White House, SHARE IT! It will be appreciated by a busy teacher who is hustling to find the appropriate project for Black History Month.