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Chasing the Dream Exploring Black History

bulletInteractives, games, quizzes

bulletThe making of a King

bulletField of legends:
       Baseball and segregation

bulletInnovators who break

bulletNew leaders, old methods

bulletStudent perspectives on
       Black History Month

bulletHistorically black colleges
       find new identities

bulletHunter-Gault: 'Black
       history saved my life'

bulletIssues in the
       African-American community


bulletWeb resources

bulletWebcast basics

bulletWebcast schedule

       History of the blues

bulletHow sweet the sound:
       A conversation with
       Nancy-Elizabeth Fitch

bulletUnit overview


bulletLesson plan: Picking a leader

bulletLesson plan: African-
       American feats

bulletLesson plan:
       Today's young leaders


bulletWeb resources

Author Myrlie Evers-Williams is a trailblazer as an activist for civil rights

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Lesson plan: African-American feats
yield advances in science, technology

February 9, 2001
Web posted at: 3:35 PM EST (2035 GMT)

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Editor's note: If you are planning to use the news story that this lesson plan is based on for a homework assignment, please write the URL on the board and have your students copy it. updates the site in the early evening, so students may have difficulty finding it without the URL. You can find the lesson plan by going to the Subject Areas page and clicking PREVIOUS in the square for Today's Lesson Plan.


Students will be able to:

  • Discuss prominent African-American inventors and their inventions.
  • Analyze ways in which the inventors' work has made a difference in students' lives.
  • Assemble profiles of prominent African-Americans.
  • Argue for the inclusion of prominent African-Americans in American history textbooks.


National Council for the Social Studies

III. Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of people, places and environments.

IV. Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of individual development and identity.

V. Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of interactions among individuals, groups and institutions.

VIII. Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of relationships among science, technology and society.

Materials article, "Innovators who break barriers"
Print texts and/or online materials with information on African-American innovators
Poster board and markers for creating profile displays

Suggested time

One to two class periods


1. Ask students to name famous African-Americans. Write the names on the board. Then categorize these individuals according to their fields: literature, science, history, math, art, literature, music, sports, etc.

2. Have students read the article "Innovators who break barriers," then ask the following:

  • What is morphing technology? What kinds of results is Anna McGowan's research team at NASA's Langley Research Center hoping to develop with this technology? List some other important technological advances and researchers named in the article? Had you heard of these ideas? Do you think they are important? Explain. If you were unaware of the inventors, who are some modern famous people that you associate with important new technological and scientific advances? Are those people that you have heard about primarily white or people of color, or is there an even balance on your list? Propose reasons for your answer.
  • How many of you ever played with Super Soakers as a child? Why did Lonnie Johnson decide to pursue their production? What has he done with some of the money he received for this popular toy?
  • What is a bell curve? What is "The Bell Curve" by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray? If you are familiar with this book, discuss what was so controversial about the theories posed in it.

3. Direct students' attention to the list of famous African-Americans they created before reading the news article. Ask them for observations about the lists under each category. If there are gaps in certain categories, ask them to use their new knowledge for additional African-American innovators.

4. Have students use the interactive features entitled "A movement of many faces," "On the cutting edge," "Stamp on America" and "Making a difference" to learn more about African-American innovators, inventors and activists.


Have students find more information about one of the African-Americans in the article or elsewhere in the special Chasing the Dream. Direct them to create a profile about one of these people, including why they believe students should learn about this person. Ask students to include a typed profile on a poster listing the person's accomplishments, relevant biographical facts and pictures. If possible, display these posters on a school hallway where other students can learn from them.


1. Students can create index cards with the name of an African-American inventor, scientist, researcher, activist, entertainer, etc., on one side and this person's contributions or creations on the other side. Allow students time to share their information with each another. Then collect the cards, divide the students into teams and use the cards to quiz them on names and contributions to society.

2. Students can write essays about ways in which inventions of prominent African-Americans have affected their everyday lives.


1. Students can look through American history textbooks to see whether or not the person they profiled is included. If not, they can write letters to the editors arguing for the inclusion of the African-Americans they chose to research.

2. Students can research the theories and refutations of "The Bell Curve" and write their own arguments about the book.

3. Students can do research on one of the inventions or research projects mentioned in the article and write essays or create oral presentations that explain the invention/research.

Chosen to serve
January 31, 2001
Lesson plan: Solar sails
June 5, 2000

For whom 'The Bell Curve' tolls
A review of 'The Bell Curve': Bad science makes for bad conclusions 'I Have a Dream'

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