“Black Panther,” the first Marvel Universe blockbuster featuring a black superhero and an almost entirely black cast, has been breaking box office records since its theater release last week. But the historic film is also making a splash in a much smaller venue ― the classroom.
Several ingenious teachers have been using “Black Panther” to get kids excited about school and about black history, tapping into Wakanda’s creative spirit to develop worksheets, reading lists and lessons about African cultures.
Tina Bailey, an instructor from Ohio’s Dayton Leadership Academies, got her students ready for class this Tuesday by wearing a “Black Panther” mask and greeting each of them with a modified version of a handshake from the movie.
Watch Bailey build bridges with her students below.
Students who follow Tess Raser’s lesson plan will learn about the history and lasting effects of colonialism in Africa, the legacy of the Transatlantic slave trade and global anti-blackness. The 28-year-old teacher’s ambitious curriculum also helps students understand the ways in which slavery is connected to the modern-day prison industrial complex in the U.S.
Students are introduced to Afrofuturism, a genre that reimagines sci-fi and fantasy culture from a black lens. Raser created worksheets that match the costumes that “Black Panther” actors wore to the traditional clothing of specific African tribes or cultures.
She told Blavity that her students have been “super interested” in learning about black history.
“I hope that my students leave a lesson a little bit more confident in their blackness, that they see themselves as leaders equipped with the political analysis and tools to create the Wakanda of their dreams,” Raser said. “I hope that they learn the ways in which our blackness connects us to people across the world, while appreciating and understanding and honoring our differences.”
I hope that my students leave a lesson a little bit more confident in their blackness, that they see themselves as leaders equipped with the political analysis and tools to create the Wakanda of their dreams.Tess Raser, sixth grade teacher at Chicago’s Dulles School of Excellence
Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia, channeled its students’ enthusiasm for “Black Panther” into an entire month of learning. Teachers at the nonprofit middle school incorporated elements of the movie into different subjects ― from music to math. Students were exposed to different African languages, like Xhosa, the South African language used in the film. They also learned about regional drumming, dance, cooking and storytelling.
Watch students at Ron Clark Academy receive a lesson about the art of storytelling by griot Mama Koku.
After all that preparation, the students were exuberant when they finally got a chance to see “Black Panther.” A photographer captured the joy on the children’s faces in a series of photos for Reuters.
Creators of the “Black Panther Challenge,” an initiative that is helping thousands of black children see the film for free, have put together a website with resources for parents and teachers interested in adding an educational element to their viewing experience. The website features reading lists, worksheets, and other activities for kids in kindergarten through 12th grade.
In an opinion piece for USA Today, Pamela Haskins, Susan Barnes and Wade King, three teachers from Ron Clark Academy, pointed out that seeing “Black Panther” empowers students to identify with a range of regal characters who are “fully in charge of their destiny.”
“If teachers fail to create experiences that reveal the strength and cultural pride of Africa, students of color will continue to believe that their African ancestral heritage reflects only poverty and pain,” the teachers wrote. “Literature mirrors life, and Black Panther’s fictional setting and characters are rooted in the dream that has been deferred for centuries. ”