Anatomy of a Course: Black History

Launch’s new Black History course explores, studies and highlights significant moments in Black history by sharing stories, music, the arts and culture.
By Jared Chester

Launch’s digital development team partnered with the Department of Equity and Diversity at Springfield Public Schools to write our new Black History course. “We wanted to ensure this course was looked at from a variety of perspectives,” says Springfield Public Schools Curriculum Coordinator Amanda Bodenstein. “I worked with Launch to write and design the online curriculum, and then we turned to the department of Equity and Diversity for their review and feedback.” The result is a well-rounded elective that shares an overview of the Black American experience from 1500 to the present. 

A Series of Stories

At the beginning of the course, students are placed into small groups for a collaborative project: they must create a series of newsletters or news articles that tell the story of Black history. “The students are able to pick their own topics—it just has to be something that is covered in the unit,” Amanda says. The students submit their news articles throughout the entire course and have a total of 10 submissions. “We wanted the students to synthesize their learning from beginning to end,” Amanda says.

Have a Ball! 

As students learn the origins of major league baseball in America, they also learn that a majority of players were African American. “Students choose an early Black baseball player, research them, and share what their life was like outside of baseball,” Amanda says.

Ending on a Positive Note

“We knew we wanted to end this course with a celebration of black culture,” Amanda says. During the course’s final unit, Celebrating the New Millennium, students celebrate how Black Americans have contributed to America in regards to the arts; athletics; politics; entrepreneurship & business; music; literature and film. “For the final project, students watch Black Panther and reflect on the ways the film demonstrates African culture as both traditional and innovative,” Amanda says. “We then ask them to reflect on the course as a whole and end by asking how race relations have changed in America and what is signified by having a Black man as a superhero.” 

Women of Wonder

As Amanda and her team worked to develop the course, they wanted to ensure that women were highlighted as well. “This wasn’t just about highlighting Black American men,” Amanda says. “For example, as we studied the world wars, we didn’t just highlight the men who were fighting for America. We talked about how Black women were fighting on the home front. We made an intentional effort to make sure we included women in the story as well.” 

Survey Says

Students who take Launch’s Black History course are given both a pre-survey and a post-survey. “We want to gauge what they know beforehand and determine their level of interest,” says Dr. Yvania Garcia-Pusateri, Springfield Public Schools Chief Equity and Diversity Officer. “The post-survey yields information regarding why Black history is important,” Dr. Garcia-Pusateri says. “It’s important to us that our Black students understand that Black excellence has always been an important part of history, and it’s important to us that all students are learning the many ways Black individuals have contributed not only to America, but to the world.”