A sixth grade student asked Jesse Russell, “Are you really an inventor? I thought all black inventors were dead.”
Jesse Eugene Russell, born April 26, 1948, and very much alive today, is a visionary African-American inventor whose innovations in digital signal processing led to the modern cell phone. He had nine siblings, grew up poor in Nashville, Tennessee, and graduated from Tennessee State and Standford University in engineering.
After completing his degree, Jesse took a job in a failing project, Cellular Radio. He asked, “What is the problem?” and was told that the company only made money when people were in their car and answered their phone. So, he said, “Let’s take the phone out of the car and put it on the people. Every time they grab the phone, we make money.”
Then he was told, but there are more people than there are cars so there just isn't enough bandwidth to do this. Jesse suggested they digitize the speech and thus reduce the bandwidth needed. And the rest is history. There are over 6 billion cell phones in use as of January 2012!
Jesse’s story points up to students that they need to take all of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses that they can to prepare themselves for the 21st century jobs they will be offered.
Who will you introduce to your students during Black History Month and what lesson do you hope they will learn?
View the The Greatest Stories Never Told spotlighting Jesse Russell:
This is a great topic! I was just combing through my sixth grade daughter's literature text. I saw the name Langston Hughes and decided to see which poems the authors had included since Mr. Hughes has always been a favorite poet of mine. What I was surprised to find was a fantastic poem by Alice Walker titled "Without Commercials" It is a celebraton of all that makes people different and special. It also points out the dangers of buyng in too seriously to the "commercial" world; addressing such issues as nose jobs and skin bleaching. The poem fits perfectly into my health unit on mental and emotional health and it is a great way to introduce students to Black History Month.
Teachers who think "outside the box" like you, Jack, are a great inspiration to their students. Thank you for your suggestion!
Alice Walker, perhaps best known as the author of The Color Purple, was born February 9, 1944 in Eatonton, Georgia. She grew up near the end of the Great Depression, poor monetarily but rich in family. With "three magic gifts" from her mother, a typewriter, a sewing machine, and a suitcase, she attended Spelman College where she became involved in the civil rights movement. Her writing has established her as a poet, short story writer, novelist, essayist, anthologist, teacher, editor, publisher, feminist and activist.
Here is a Calendar Activity from Read Write Think on Author Alice Walker
If we all collaborate in this discussion, we can probably tie Black History Month into every subject taught.
Black History Month is a particularly good time for thinking about civil rights.Wonderopolis recently had a Wonder titled What Is a Civil Right? that was rated highly and had some very positive comments by viewers. It naturally included information about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and has some interesting links as well. Reading this Wonder could be a way to inspire great discussions, further online exploration, and speaking/writing activities throughout the month.
How would you feel? is another great resource that helps children identify with the feelings people experienced during the civil rights movement and think about how they might have felt or responded to the sit in at the famous Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, NC. After experiencing this activity, you might have students participate in a debate--just one of many possible follow-up activities. These are highly emotional and powerful historical events that children need to understand and appreciate.
Antiques were very big in rural Ohio! When an antique dealer knocked on my grandmother's door and asked to buy her butter churn sitting on the porch, she replied "but how would I make our butter."
For your K-2 students, fill a small Tupperware container half full with whipping cream. Place two or three clean marbles inside. Seal the container and shake for 15 minutes. You may have to pass it around the room because this can be tiring on the arms. ;-) The cream will separate into butter and buttermilk. Pour off the liquid. Wrap the butter in a clean paper towel and squeeze out any remaining liquid. Add a little salt, if desired and spread it on bread to share and eat.
What does this have to do with black History Month?
In 1891, African-American Inventor A.C. Richardson patented the wooden butter churn.
Who else will you introduce to your students during Black History Month and Engineering Week?
We put a lot of emphasis on Black History Month and each grade has a report relating to African-American role models every year. For overall information about our Black History Series, including movie night, daily proverbs and Pop-In inventors you can see our website page for our parents here: http://www.stphilipsacademy.org/BHS
Our 7th graders just finished a great Black History Month activity to help them gain context on the years of reports and learning they've participated in. They opened by writing reflection paragraphs focused on why it's important to learn about the experiences of generations before them and then read their paragraphs in a partner share. (This was a critical piece to opening the activity and give the students a sense of respect and importance).
The students then completed this Choose Your Own Adventure interactive from National Geographic:
They then split into small groups and went on a virtual museum tour of the Canadian Black History Musem: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/games/museum/flash/flash-game.asp
They then journaled about the role models they've presented in past years. Their next, on-going assignment, is to choose either a new role model, or one they've already done a report on, and create an interactive museum exhibit about that role model. This will be capped with a reflection on why they've made the choices to present their role model in that way.
Some role models they'll be presenting include:
George W Carver
Martin Luther King Jr
Adam Clayton Powell Jr.
To follow up on Katrina's reference to Alvin Ailey, a dance choreographer who formed one of the first integrated professional dance companies in the United States--> As part of the new "Master+Work" series in which the reader learns about an artist and his/her most important works, ARTSEDGE has a feature about Ailey and his renowned piece, Revelations. http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/students/features/master-work/ailey-revelations.aspx
The ARTSEDGE Drop Me Off in Harlem microsite also has a really cool layout that introduces you to many familiar, and maybe not as familiar, individuals who were pivotal to the Harlem Renaissance: artists (including Aaron Douglas, Selma Burke), musicians (Eubie Blake, Cab Calloway), actors (Charles Gilpin, Adelaide Hall), dancers (Florence Mills, Bill Robinson), writers (Countee Cullen, Zora Hurston), supporters and activists (Marcus Garvey, Charlotte Mason). You can click through an active map of Harlem and learn about important locations; watch video or listen to audio of the individuals' contributions; and learn about different key themes. http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/multimedia/series/AEMicrosites/drop-me-off-in-harlem.aspx
A great addition to this list would be chemist Percy Julian. There was an episode of NOVA about him, which would be a wonderful classroom resource. And it's packed with interesting chemistry, too.
There's more at:
I would introduce Sidney Poitier primarily for being a pioneer. I want my students to know that anything is possible if they stay true to who they are. Sidney Poitier's story is remarkable. From Bahamas, to becoming an actor, producer, director and the first black man to win an academy award for best actor. He served in the United States Army. He won a Grammy, became a Knight Commander of the British Empire in 1974 and also served as a nonresident mbassador to Japan and United Nations. Sidney Poitier paved way for many African Americans to be accepted in Hollywood for their talents. He is a role model and he is still supporting young talents in the industry.
Philomena Okpala, Glendale, CALIFORNIA Teacher-LAUSD
I have introduced one of my favorite economists to my students for Black History month, but I have to admit, Walter does not just get one month of exposure. I recommend that every person (teacher, parent, or student) get to know one of the outstanding economists of our times. He has a varied background including serving in government, but more recently he was the Chairman of the Economics Department at George Mason University.
Walter grew up in north Philly and if any of you know the area, you know that it's a tough neighborhood. Actually, it's the same neighborhood in which Bill Cosby grew up. Walter and Bill both relate often when they speak about their grandmothers having such an influence on their lives within a ghetto area.
Those of us in the economic classroom are very grateful for the insight and vision that Walter Williams has had for all ethnic groups, but his focus is on the black youth and culture. He's awesome. His messages apply to all of us. Check him out below. He has a lot of video on YouTube so if you like what he says, plug into some solid economic listening pleasure.