Free online resources for kids that celebrate Black history and culture
Whether your child can recite from memory the names and philosophies of leaders like W.E.B. Du Bois and Angela Davis, or they need an introduction to the pivotal Black figures who have helped shape our nation, Black History Month offers a valuable opportunity for children to learn and grow.
Of course, awareness and appreciation of Black history and culture, along with racial justice, are relevant all year long when raising children in a multicultural society. But, with lessons about race and systemic racism being threatened in schools(Opens in a new window) across many states — often in association with national conversation surrounding Critical Race Theory — Black history can often be carelessly (or intentionally) overlooked.
You can bridge these gaps in education and bolster your children’s learning with digital resources. The ones below represent a variety of tools from national museums and educational nonprofits, created to educate and engage children in Black history and culture through interactive events, entertaining videos, and content that profile Black visionaries and leaders. Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, head on over to these websites to spark children’s curiosity or continue their education.
1. Common Sense Media
Common Sense(Opens in a new window), a nonprofit that helps parents and teachers choose appropriate kids’ media and technology, has its own Celebrate Black Voices(Opens in a new window) page for educational media and activities for all ages. The website acts as a guide for finding content online, which means it includes both free and paid resources. Common Sense says its goal this month is to “highlight the diverse culture, achievements, and experiences of Black people and the powerful voices that have shaped history.”
Common Sense points families to its “Black History on the Screen” lists, which compile Common Sense-approved media highlighting famous Black icons or cultural moments. The media covers a variety of subjects, including STEM(Opens in a new window); Arts,(Opens in a new window) Business & Culture(Opens in a new window); Dance, Games & Sports(Opens in a new window); and Activism, Civics & Social Justice(Opens in a new window). Families can look through Common Sense’s list of Black TV classics(Opens in a new window), as well. There are accompanying videos(Opens in a new window) with each list, which include age ranges for the selections.
Common Sense also suggests parents look at its book lists on Black history, which include ones for preschoolers and little kids(Opens in a new window), “big kids” and tweens(Opens in a new window), and teens(Opens in a new window). The books span fiction and nonfiction, and include classics alongside contemporary novels.
Finally, the organization has published its own teaching resources for families and educators, including a guide to reflecting on Black history as a family(Opens in a new window), free learning activities for Black History Month(Opens in a new window), and educational, kid-friendly videos and podcasts(Opens in a new window) about Black history and culture.
2. The National Museum of African American History and Culture
The only national museum dedicated exclusively to the documentation of “African American life, history, and culture,” points parents of young children to its annual Black History Month programming(Opens in a new window), including the weekly Friday series, NMAAHC Kids Learning Together(Opens in a new window). This month includes Black character celebrations, which combine discussion of positive representations in movies and TV with real-life arts, culture, and science, as well as guest speakers. They are held virtually every Friday throughout February at 11 a.m. ET.
For 2022’s celebration, and to honor the previous year’s theme of Black health and wellness, the museum put together a searchable online exhibit(Opens in a new window) about Black communities and public health, including explanations of the “Tuskegee Experiment”(Opens in a new window) and Henrietta Lacks(Opens in a new window). The exhibit remains available online.
The museum also suggests parents and educators take advantage of the museum’s Talking about Race(Opens in a new window) online portal to help children understand key topics like how to be anti-racist(Opens in a new window) and why the idea of race is such a dominant force in our world(Opens in a new window). There are even more resources for early childhood education(Opens in a new window) on the museum’s website, as well.
3. New York Public Library
The New York Public Library(Opens in a new window) runs a Little Learners video series(Opens in a new window), which offers music, art, and culture programming including videos on Black history and culture by music and social justice artist Fyütch(Opens in a new window), as well as content exploring other cultures from around the world. The library also encourages parents and their children to check out its Early Literacy hub(Opens in a new window), which offers free programs, books, and other resources for young learners and families.
You can find more Black History Month programming on the library’s online calendar(Opens in a new window).
PBS has a variety of online resources(Opens in a new window), categorized by age, to teach kids about Black History and anti-racism. For example, parents of kids ages 2 to 5 can use PBS’ drawing activity(Opens in a new window) to help their children understand the power of advocacy and reflect on the times they stood up for someone. They can also think about and write down the characteristics of great heroes with a printable work page(Opens in a new window). Afterward, take a look at PBS’ Questions to Ask Your Child(Opens in a new window) to engage your kid in a discussion about Black heroes. You can ask them questions like, “What Black role models helped to make the world a better place?”
Children 6 through 8 can watch animated videos about Black people whose accomplishments secured them a place in the history books. For example, check out scientist and inventor George Washington Carver(Opens in a new window), who invented more than 300 products from peanuts, and writer Zora Neale Hurston(Opens in a new window), whose work explored Black people’s stories in the South(Opens in a new window). After watching the videos, explore PBS’ supplemental activities, like colorfully illustrated PDFs you can download(Opens in a new window) that inspire children to share their own stories like Hurston did.
As part of PBS’ anti-racism resources, educators can use PBS’ “Creating a Caring Classroom Community” hub(Opens in a new window) to learn how to nurture a caring classroom, teach students to celebrate diversity, and talk about why racism hurts. You can kick off a class with this video(Opens in a new window) from the show Arthur that teaches kids about racism.
5. Smithsonian Institute Learning Lab
In addition to partnering with the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Smithsonian Institute(Opens in a new window) hosts its interactive Learning Lab, an online resource for students, teachers, parents, and the casually curious. The website includes Learning Lab collections(Opens in a new window) — digital versions of museum exhibits created by professionals.
Parents and children also can use the Smithsonian Learning Lab’s online lesson(Opens in a new window) discussing Black History Month through the histories of important Black figures and Black art, featuring works from the National Portrait Gallery. The guided presentation takes children through the basics of art, shows famous portraits with accompanying biographies, and includes questions and activities at the end. The activity is suitable for all ages.
Other collections include lessons and photo galleries created using items and exhibits from the museum’s archives, like Music and Sound(Opens in a new window), featuring famous Black musicians, and Hair Joy,(Opens in a new window) a collection of images showcasing Black hairstyles and history.
6. Scholastic Magazines+
Scholastic Magazines+(Opens in a new window), which offers both paid and free teaching resources in association with Scholastic books, published a free, nonfiction story collection(Opens in a new window) for young readers to learn more about Black history and culture. The stories are suitable for grades 1-12.
The nonfiction resources are “dedicated to brave men, women and children who have made a big impact on the world,” according to the website, and share the stories of Black leaders like ballerina Misty Copeland(Opens in a new window) and pilot Bessie Coleman(Opens in a new window).
Each history lesson is paired with teaching resources like narrated videos for young children, close-reading questions, and vocabulary lessons. Along with the stories, Scholastic also has an accompanying video series interviewing young Black entrepreneurs(Opens in a new window) who have founded nonprofits, clothing companies, and a coding academy.
Be sure to also check out Scholastic Magazine’s StoryWorks series celebrating Black voices(Opens in a new window), complete with teaching resources to accompany each story, and the Black History Month Reading List(Opens in a new window) — take the time to head to your local library for free copies.
7. National Education Association
The National Education Association(Opens in a new window), a network of educators and professionals working in public education, has its own Black History Month hub(Opens in a new window) full of free, online activities created by members and other organizations, like Scholastic books, PBS, and Learning for Justice(Opens in a new window). Activities include history lessons, quizzes, and printable exercises like crosswords, as well as lesson plans for educators.
The activities are easily divided by grade level, from kindergarten to 12th grade. Each grade level is provided with various lessons across an array of subjects, including science, art, and even sports. It’s a great, curated list to start looking for more ways to engage your children.
8. The New York Times Learning Network
The New York Times Learning Network(Opens in a new window) is a teaching resource for educators (as well as students or interested parents) that incorporates current news and history. The website includes lesson plans, activities, and articles curated for educators using the New York Times content.
The publication has a two-part series on Black History Month called Black History, Continued(Opens in a new window), in which the Times dives deep into understudied moments and highlights of Black history and culture(Opens in a new window). The second part of the series(Opens in a new window) includes a lesson plan that expands on the history contained in the Continued series, providing discussion questions and opportunities to “reflect on the importance of celebrating overlooked or under-appreciated aspects of the American experience,” according to the Learning Network.
The website also has activities for teens and older students, like the student opinion activity How Much Have You Learned About Black History?(Opens in a new window) The article and accompanying questions ask young people to reflect on how Black history is taught in their own schools, what topics they’d like to cover that are currently left out, and how current curricula should change.
9. Black History Month Official Website
The official landing page(Opens in a new window) for the federal recognition of Black History Month has published a long list of learning resources(Opens in a new window) for teachers, parents, and those seeking a broad look at Black history in the United States. The list utilizes archives and digital education sites put together by government organizations like the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Gallery of Art, and even the National Parks Service.
These resources include photo galleries (like this collection celebrating icons of the Harlem Renaissance(Opens in a new window)), articles(Opens in a new window) and learning activities(Opens in a new window), and even eBooks(Opens in a new window).
This list is a non-exhaustive example of the plethora of free resources(Opens in a new window) available online, year round. Whichever digital resource you use to explore and celebrate Black history and culture with your kids or students — in February and beyond — it can help build a foundation for a more knowledgeable and anti-racist future.
UPDATE: Feb. 8, 2022, 7:00 p.m. EST This story was originally published in February 2021 and was updated with new information and to include more resources in February 2022.
UPDATE: Feb. 3, 2023, 11:57 a.m. EST This story was updated with new information in honor of Black History Month 2023.
https://mashable.com/article/free-online-kids-resources-black-history-month Free online resources for kids that celebrate Black history and culture