Commemorate emancipation and explore Black history for Juneteenth

09 Jun 2021

Juneteenth is a day dedicated to commemorating the emancipation of enslaved people in the US. Conversations around Black history in the United States can be challenging to lead, but hosting those discussions in a familiar environment can help students feel safe as they express their thoughts and feelings.

To help educators address these difficult topics, we partnered with two of the creators who designed our Good Trouble content on two new lessons and an engaging build challenge centered on Juneteenth. Atlanta Public Schools’ Natasha Rachell and Felisa Ford are innovators in education and advocates for student leadership. They’ve designed these lessons to help students from elementary through high school explore Juneteenth’s societal context and build cultural awareness as they discuss the reasons we commemorate historical milestones.

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Juneteenth: Why We Celebrate

This lesson introduces the ideas behind Juneteenth to elementary students aged 6–10. They’ll learn about the holiday, then pretend that they’ve been hired to create a Juneteenth celebration in their community’s local park to commemorate the event. Learners will need to research Juneteenth to find out what it represents and why it’s celebrated. Then they create a scene that depicts how families across the United States observe the occasion. They can even include a parade! Get a detailed lesson plan here.

Juneteenth: Freedom Day

This version of the lesson is intended for middle and high school students aged 11–18. Learners will conduct more advanced discussions and research before moving on to two build activities in Minecraft. First, they’ll create an aerial view of a self-designed book cover that would grab the attention of a fellow student who wants to learn more about Juneteenth. They should outline why they included certain elements in their covers and use a book and quill to document the history of Juneteenth. The second activity invites students into a museum world where they’ll develop exhibits displaying the ways their families celebrate important occasions and statues that represent Juneteenth. You can find the lesson description and guidance for educators here.

Juneteenth Build Challenge

The build challenge is appropriate for learners of all ages. For this activity, students play the role of museum curators for the new Juneteenth Museum that’s opening in 2021. They’ll need to research the holiday to learn what it is and why it’s significant. As the curators, they’re tasked with including artifacts that commemorate the historical significance of Juneteenth—representing people, places, events, documents, and more. They can also add images of the various ways people celebrate the holiday across the United States. Find instructions for running this challenge along with extension activities here.

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"These lessons are powerful tools for helping you inspire empathy and a sense of social justice in your students. You can also join a special lesson jam with Felisa and Natasha on June 16 to help lead these activities. Get your learners ready for a meaningful Juneteenth and important discussions of racial equity!"

If you haven’t brought game-based learning with Minecraft: Education Edition into your classroom, learn how to get started here.