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A Strong Female African American Figure
Introducing the story of Rosa Parks for preschool children is an excellent way to introduce a unit on strong female characters in history, or on African Americans. Studying Rosa Parks is very inspirational, and young children are sure to love hearing about American history and what life was like a long time ago.
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It's Circle Time
The story of Rosa Parks can be quite complicated for young children, so reading through children’s books about the story is a good way to introduce the topic and help ensure the children know exactly what happened. “I Am Rosa Parks" in the Puffin Easy-to-Read series is an excellent introduction, and “If A Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks" by Ringgold Faith is a simpler version with good pictures.
Explain to the children that segregation means dividing people by the color of their skin, by sex, or by some other characteristic that sets them apart, and to boycott something means you won’t use it. You could demonstrate these points by dividing the children by the colors of their hair, and asking them to boycott a toy in the classroom. Discuss these words with the children to get an idea of their understanding of them, and how they feel about them.
Ask the children if they think the bus boycott was a good idea, and why they think the boycott worked. Talk about the bus company losing money, because nobody was using the buses. Ask what other ways the children think Rosa could have made her stand.
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Show the children the famous watercolor painting of Rosa riding the bus after the boycott. It is included in the “I Am Rosa Parks" book, and is also viewable online.
You will need:
- Black and white copies of the famous picture
- Watercolor paints
Give the children a black and white copy of the picture, and ask them to paint it in watercolors. Make sure they can view the original if they need too, by printing copies for each desk, or passing the book around. This activity allows the children to reflect on the story and improves fine motor skills.
While the children’s watercolor paintings dry, pass out construction paper and pencils. Ask each child to draw part of the story. You can allow them to view the books for inspiration. Allow each child to carefully draw a picture, and then paint it.
Once the pictures have dried, ask each child to describe what they have painted and what happened in that part of the story. This will show how much each child has understood and also which parts of the story they found most interesting. Allow the children to speak without interruption. This activity provides a great time to develop and assess communication skills.
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Make A Time Line
As a class, make a display that looks like a road. Cut out some bus shapes, and write what happened at each stage on each bus. Encourage the children to summarize the story for you, and see what they remember. You could decorate the buses using art materials, and assemble the children’s earlier paintings around the display.
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What Happened Next?
Finish the lesson by telling the children about the Montgomery bus boycott, and telling them that Rosa inspired others to stand up to the unfair laws. You could introduce Martin Luther King here, and tell the children how he was very important to the movement.
Ask the children to compare today to Rosa’s time. Ask them what the big differences are: Start them off by asking who is allowed to go on buses now. Encourage them to think of other examples. You could read some of the other books on Rosa Parks for preschool or any books on the civil rights movement.