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What to Teach This Month: August

August 1, 2023

What to Teach This Month: August

What are you teaching students this month? Check out this list of free resources and lesson plans for what to teach in August.

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What are you teaching about this August? Check out our recommendations in this month’s “What to Teach.”

Although September technically marks the end of summer, for me, August will always be the metaphorical bell toll for the end of the season as we head into the fall, and students (and let’s be serious, myself) get excited for pumpkins and spooky movies. The back-to-school season was the time when I was able to pick out some snazzy new colored pencils, notebooks for different subjects that were bound to be covered in questionable art, and experience the growing excitement of seeing many of my friends from the previous year.

August provides a time for educators, students and families to start their own new year—including a time to enter our Back-to-School Sweepstakes for a chance to win funds for your DonorsChoose projects—but it is also a time to mark and learn about many firsts throughout history, several of which have transformed how the world works today. History in many ways is a study of firsts, and this month’s “What to Teach” highlights achievements and firsts in the fight for freedom; racial equity and civil rights; ominous advances in science; and the ratification of a key constitutional amendment.

Jesse Owens

Ask your students: Who was the athlete who famously challenged Adolf Hitler's vision of the world by winning four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, on Aug. 3? If you answered Jesse Owens, you're correct. Learning about Jesse Owens is important for all students, as his life and achievements provide important lessons in perseverance, courage, and the power of sports to challenge societal norms and political ideologies. As a Black athlete, his success debunked racial stereotypes and highlighted the power of individual excellence to challenge systemic bigotry. Understanding his journey can inspire students to challenge injustices they encounter, underscore the importance of tenacity in achieving personal goals, and illustrate the profound impact one person can make in shaping societal perspectives and history.

Manhattan Project/Atomic Bomb

Oppenheimer is more than just one of the summer's hottest new movies (What about Barbie?); it's a timely portal into a crucial chapter in history. As we approach the anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, Aug. 6 and 9, 1945, respectively, revisiting the Manhattan Project, the program that produced the first atomic bombs, gains particular relevance. It compels us to reflect on the far-reaching consequences of these weapons, the complex ethical dilemmas surrounding their creation and use, and the profound change they brought about in the nature of warfare and human existence.

Bonus: Barbie!

Have you seen Barbie yet? If you’re planning to view this with students or a family, make sure to check out Amber Chandler’s Barbie Movie Pre-viewing and Discussion Guide, which provides opportunities to discuss important issues of self-worth, body image, gender roles and philosophy.

19th Amendment Ratification

Did the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution truly grant all women the right to vote? The amendment, ratified Aug. 18, 1920, did affirm women's suffrage, but  it's important to understand that its benefits were not initially extended to all women. Many women, particularly women of color and those of lower socioeconomic status, continued to face systemic barriers that effectively disenfranchised them well into the 20th century. Teaching students about this pivotal time in history helps them appreciate the victories of the women's suffrage movement, while also acknowledging its limitations and the continued struggle for voting rights by marginalized groups. To me, this perspective is crucial in recognizing and addressing ongoing voting rights issues and disparities in political participation; and by understanding the inequalities of the past, students are better equipped to champion and uphold democratic principles now and in the future.

The Haitian Revolution

Did you know that another historic revolution took place at the same time as the French Revolution? From Aug. 21, 1791, to Jan. 1, 1804, the world experienced the first and only successful slave uprising that led to the establishment of an independent nation. Under the leadership of figures like Toussaint Louverture, a former enslaved person who rose to prominence by his military and political acumen, the revolutionaries not only established the Republic of Haiti but also fundamentally challenged  long-standing European ideologies about racial inferiority and the rights of enslaved people to freedom. In contrast to the French Revolution, which is often cited for its role in advancing ideas about liberty, equality and fraternity, the Haitian Revolution stands as a potent symbol of the universal applicability of these ideals. It showcases the struggle for equality, independence and human rights not just among the privileged or majority populations, but also among those oppressed due to race or social status.

The March on Washington/Civil Rights

Do your students know the origin of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, given on Aug. 28, 1963? Studying the 65th anniversary of this historical event, as well as the civil rights movement, is crucial in the context of contemporary threats to civil rights because it provides historical insight into the collective power of peaceful protest and mobilization in challenging systemic injustice. The 1963 March on Washington highlighted the urgency of civil rights issues, ultimately leading to significant legislative changes, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Today, as we witness recurring threats to these rights, such as voter suppression efforts, systemic racism, and inequities in criminal justice, studying the 1963 March underscores the importance of unity, sustained activism and the profound potential of nonviolent resistance in the face of oppression.

More Resources for the New School Year

Get the new school year started off on the right track with more resources on topics such as classroom management, social-emotional learning, family engagement, supporting English-language learners, building successful community schools, and more.

Andy Kratochvil
Andy Kratochvil is an SML team member who loves hiking, video games, scary books, Mexican food, and finding great content for the Share My Lesson community. He studied political science and French at California State University, Fullerton and received his Master’s in International Affairs from... See More
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