So I’m more of a “teach African American history all year” type of teacher, but February is Black History Month and that makes it the perfect time to shine the spotlight on even more important African Americans who contributed to America’s history. One of my favorite ways to do that is with a research project on African American inventors. This simple project not only helps students learn more about some of the amazing inventors of our past, but it also helps my second graders hone their research skills. #teacherwinning
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African American Inventors
We use the Macmillan reading series, Treasures, and one of the stories included is about African American Inventors.
Here’s a link to a video reading of the book!
Now, we don’t always do every story from our series, but this one is PERFECT for teaching research skills without being overwhelming. Bonus: we’re able to spotlight some amazingly brilliant inventions that were engineered by people of color who had to overcome adversity to bring their inventions to light.
If you don’t have access to this text, here are a few other books I found on Amazon that would be great to pull to help students learn more about African American inventors.
You can find these, as well as some other great books for February, in my Amazon Store here.
If you have access to technology in your room, you could also use the Google Safe Search feature for students to look up famous inventors for their African American research project. I would just be sure to supply a few names as starting points.
These are some of my favorites:
- Benjamin Banneker- Almanac author
- Lyda Newman- invented the modern-day hairbrush
- George Washington Carver- so many inventions!
- Garrett Morgan- the traffic light
- Madam C.J. Walker- hair products
- Patricia Bath- laser cataract surgery
- George Crum- the potato chip
- Henry Thomas Sampson Jr.- invented the gamma-electric cell (used to power cell phones)
African American Inventors Trifold
To help us gather information about each inventor we made these easy tri-folds.
To make the tri-fold, print out enough sheets for each student. Then, cut and paste a section onto a piece of construction paper that has been accordion-folded into thirds. You could alternatively print the tri-folds double-sided and have students fold them. I just found it to be easier to write on the papers first, then cut and paste the information onto a piece of construction paper for our tri-folds.
First Read of African American Inventors
For our first read of the book, we mainly focused on each of the inventors and worked to make connections. We discussed their inventions and how we now use that item, or something similar, in our everyday lives. This helped build interest for our research portion later in the week.
We also discussed how many of the inventors mentioned in the book were incredibly brave considering the social norms of when they were alive. We discuss how in the past, people of color were not always allowed to go to school or learn to read. This made it difficult to file a patent or write out directions. Building this background piece allowed my students to see just how determined the inventors covered in the text must have been.
Gathering Information for our Research
Later in the week, we were ready to start gathering information to complete our African American Inventors research project. Before reading again, we discussed important information and how that can help us better understand a topic or in our case a specific person. We reviewed how to know when information is important. Mainly we were looking for details that could help us answer the questions:
- Why? or How?