Resources for Black History Month in the Science Classroom

In the United States and other countries, February is known as Black History Month. This remembrance was established in 1970 “as a way of remembering important people and events in the history of the African diaspora.” In honor of Black History Month this February, we will highlight our favorite FREE teaching resources, lists of scientists, and ways to find contemporary researchers of color and learn of their achievements. While we are posting these resources now, the contributions of scientists of color should be celebrated every month.

  1. “Ten Black Scientists that Science Teachers Should Know About” from PBS NOVA: This list features videos, articles, and teaching resources about Black scientists across disciplines. For those teaching Biomedical Research, we think Dr. Marie Maynard Daly would seamlessly fit into your curriculum. Daly was the first Black woman in the United States to receive a doctorate in Chemistry. In her studies of nutrition and and the circulatory system, she explored the effects of cholesterol on the circulatory system, specifically in the heart. We can pair our experiment on Cholesterol Diagnostics with readings about Daly and a model of the human heart to create a truly comprehensive lesson.
  1. “Black History Month: Celebrating Blacks in Science, Promoting Diversity in STEM” by Dr. Danielle N. Lee: In this article, Dr. Lee points out the importance of highlighting contemporary Black scientists. She makes the point that people are “so focused on ‘history’ or ‘fame’ that they were completely unaware of the scientists who made a mark right in their very hometown or scientists who were still alive but living quiet lives.” Students can go to websites from local news or research institutions to find scientists in their community. Furthermore, hashtags on Twitter like #BlackandSTEM or websites like “Diversify Chem” are used to highlight research by Black scientists and opportunities for Black scientists. During the COVID-19 crisis, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett has been prominently featured for her work developing one of the mRNA vaccines. Her work can be paired with one of our many COVID-19 simulation experiments to create a comprehensive lesson.
  2. “Black Chemists you should know about” from Chemical and Engineering News: In this article, Dr. Sibrina Collins talks about her desire to highlight chemists of color in her teaching material. “My goal was really to broaden the image of a chemist in the classroom for all my students to see,” she tells C&EN. “I really do think that chemists, scientists, we are historians. We just tell the stories through the molecules and systems that we study.” This list was started with six entries in 2019 and continues to grow. (FYI, they welcome submissions, so if you discover any scientists that should be highlighted be sure to share them.) If you are teaching blood typing, we suggest highlighting Dr. Charles Drew, who studied blood transfusions and storage. His work during World War II improved blood banking and distribution during the conflict, allowing large quantities of plasma to be distributed throughout the UK. For distance learning, have your students research Dr. Drew’s contributions while studying blood typing and the parts of the blood system.
  3. “A History of Black Scientists” from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology: This free downloadable poster features over 40 Black scientists, starting in 1864 and going to present day. The poster pairs with a previous issue of the Society’s magazine ASBMB Today, which focuses on Diversity and Inclusion. One article within the issue focuses on “Questioning the impact of Role Models” and provides strategies for better mentorship and student guidance.
  4. Bringing Black History Month to STEM Classes” from Education Week: This article features several scientists with potential topics for exploration. One person to learn about is Vivien Thomas. His work developing pediatric open heart surgery techniques with surgeon Alfred Blalock was critical in reversing “Blue Baby” syndrome, which can result from congenital heart defects. His path, from humble beginnings to Johns Hopkins was featured in this article and in the movie “Something the Lord Made” which can be viewed online. Pair these resources with our heart model.
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