Wakanda in Classrooms Across America

February 27, 2018
 
Main characters from the movie Black Panther standing together in African attire on the side of a mountain cliff.

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Marvel Studio’s Black Panther earned $112 million with a record breaking 2nd weekend. If you haven’t seen the film yet, I am happy to give you a quick summary, without giving away too much!  This film is based on the 1966 Marvel Comic Black Panther. The movie, Black Panther, is about the life of T’Challa, who after his father’s death, must return home to Wakanda to take over the throne. Wakanda is a hidden country in Africa that has the greatest technological advances and is where Vibranium grows. Vibranium is at the core of everything in Wakanda and is the secret to Black Panther’s strength. A powerful enemy appears to King T’Challa and forces him to examine a major conflict that could destroy Wakanda and the rest of the world. T’Challa must rely on his allies and his strength as Black Panther to defeat this enemy and protect both his home and the rest of the world.

This film has sparked a major interest in many people and teachers have found ways to incorporate this film into the classroom. I can remember learning about Black History month in school as a child, and it was always about the struggles of Black people and the few that helped us overcome those struggles, to a certain extent. However, with this film, there is so much more positivity to explore! It is truly about various nations of people who come together, thrive, and have complete control over their destiny! Netia McCray is one of the educators using the Black Panther film as a tool for education. In this EdSurge podcast, she shares how she is teaching children to use software and 3D printers to design and make artifacts from this new film.

Educators are also using the new comic books, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, as a way to get their most reluctant readers to enjoy reading. Some are using the graphic novels to host English class discussions about symbolism, power, and culture. If you haven’t heard, this is Marvel’s first film is starring a Black lead actor, mostly Black supporting cast, and a Black director. I know for my children and many others, this is the first time that we have seen someone that looks like us as a big-screen superhero.  Mr. Coffey, a teacher from an Oregon High School, shared with donorschoose.org how he is using the film and the comics to “give students of color examples of people who look like them in positive and powerful roles.”  He has even started a project called, “Black Superheroes: Infusing Pop Culture with Real Diversity.”

Teacher Tess Raser has designed the Wakanda Curriculum which is a complete google doc designed for students that will see Black Panther and can be used as a way to engage them more critically and thoughtfully with the film.  The curriculum she designed is for 5th-8th grade students who have some experience studying the African continent, its diversity, and colonialism.

If you are looking for ways to incorporate the STEM fields highlighted in this film in your classroom, you can start by teaching your students about the invention process from PBS News Hour.  To help students understand the importance of women in science, (which is a major role in the Black Panther film), students can learn about various science women heroes from Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls series.

There is so much to unpack in this film and as educators we are always looking for creative ways to engage our students.  This film can be used across curriculums for years to come.