People celebrate National Heritage Hispanic Month every year from September 15th to October 15th across America. This event gives communities the perfect opportunity to explore the rich culture and history of the Hispanic ethnicity, as well as the contributions of important Hispanic-American figures to the United States.
During this time, kids will have the opportunity to better understand the Hispanic community and build deeper connections with classmates from a different ethnicity through a range of activities. When given the right resources, teachers can create an inclusive environment where kids will learn how to be tolerant, kind, and support the differences that make them unique.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the ways in which you can involve students in the celebration of this Hispanic Heritage Month through their education. You can use these activities and resources to familiarize kids with some of the most important Hispanic figures in American history.
How to Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month?
During Hispanic Heritage Month, people all around America celebrate Hispanic culture through festivals, art shows, concerts, conferences, educational and artistic gatherings, and so much more.
The events begin in the middle of September, rather than at the beginning because several Latin American countries celebrate national independence days, as well as some major national holidays, at the same time. So, how can kids be interested in and understand US cultural diversity?
Here are a few examples of fun activities you can implement in your classroom:
- Play video materials in class, like documentaries featuring some of the most famous Hispanic figures in American history. After this, encourage students to discuss the implications of that person’s achievements in today’s society.
- Organize a fishbowl discussion. You can ask students to read a book, an article, a poem, or a short story from a Hispanic author such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and discuss its literary value.
- Divide students into small diverse groups and let them work on our National Hispanic Heritage Month Facts & Worksheets. After the group is finished, you can all compare the answers together and discuss the Hispanic influence in the US.
- Assign each student to play the role of one important Hispanic figure in American history and then organize a play. Each student will take the role of that figure and will talk about their achievements, while the others have to guess who that is.
- Play Hispanic music, from Latin jazz to salsa, and encourage students to research their favorite Hispanic artist and tell the class what they know about them and why they like them (this can work in a variety of fields like science, sport, and politics, not just the music industry).
Learn About 9 Important Hispanic Figures
Did you know that Emilio and Gloria Estefan received the 2019 Gershwin Prize, which made them the first recipients of Hispanic descent?
While chances are you have heard of them, there are so many other Hispanic-American figures deserving of wider recognition. We’ll give you some highly influential names in a variety of fields, like politics, physics, medicine, business, and law, just for inspiration.
David Glasgow Farragut
David Glasgow Farragut is known as a navy legend, devoting 59 years of his life in naval service, and ultimately becoming the first rear admiral, vice admiral, and admiral in the United States Navy.
At only 12-years old, Farragut served in the War of 1812 under the command of Officer Porter and was able to impress most colleagues with his abilities, becoming a prize master. In 1824, at only 22-years old, he got his first command.
In 1862 he declared his loyalty to the Union and served in the Civil War. During this time, he had many triumphs, but the victory over the Confederate Navy in New Orleans spurred the United States Navy into creating the rank of rear admiral to honor him. After this, Farragut became the first U.S. Navy Sailor to reach the rank of admiral.
His legacy still lives on today as many institutions and places in the USA are named after him, including the Farragut Square in Washington, D.C.
Joseph Marion Hernández
José Mariano Hernández (May 26, 1788 – June 8, 1857) was a politician, plantation owner, and soldier. He is also known as the first Delegate from Florida Territory and the first Hispanic American to serve in the United States Congress (17th, 1821–1823). He was elected on September 30, 1822.
Although serving less than a year as a Delegate for Florida Territory, his influence was crucial in transitioning the Florida Territory from Spanish to American government. He secured the property rights of many Floridians and worked to make Florida a candidate for a state.
Ellen Ochoa (born May 10, 1958) is an American engineer and astronaut, who’s best known as the first Hispanic woman to go to space. Today she’s the director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
Ochoa’s paternal grandparents immigrated from Sonora, Mexico to Arizona and later California. She was born in California where she got her bachelor’s degree in physics with the highest prestige. She got a master’s and doctorate degree from the Stanford Department of Electrical Engineering. After this, Ochoa started researching optical systems for performing information processing and became a co-inventor on three patents for such optical systems.
In 1993, Ochoa served on a nine-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, making her the first Hispanic woman to go to space.
Antonia C. Novello
Some would say that Novello is one of the people that changed the face of medicine. She is the first Hispanic to become the Surgeon General of the United States (1990 to 1993).
Antonia C. Novello was born in 1944 in Puerto Rico where she was diagnosed with congenital megacolon. She had to spend a lot of time in hospitals during her childhood, waiting for 18 years for a surgery that would correct her condition. This experience shaped her dreams and made Novello want to become a doctor. In an interview for The Saturday Evening Post, Novello said: “I thought, when I grow up, no other person is going to wait 18 years for surgery.”
Sonia Sotomayor made history when she became the first Hispanic and Latina member of the Supreme Court of the United States (on August 8, 2009).
Just like Jenifer Lopez, Sotomayor was born in The Bronx, New York City, while both of her parents were born in Puerto Rico. She graduated from Princeton University and got a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School.
President George H. W. Bush nominated Sotomayor to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, while President Bill Clinton nominated her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Finally, in May 2009, President Barak Obama nominated her to the Supreme Court.
Luis Walter Alvarez
Luis Walter Alvarez was born in 1911, San Francisco, in a family of physicians of Spanish descent. Today, he is known worldwide as a brilliant mind and a Nobel Prize-winning physicist (1968).
Alvarez got the Nobel Prize for developing the hydrogen bubble chamber which made possible the discovery of resonance states in particle physics. He was also awarded the Medal for Merit (1947), National Medal of Science (1963), and Enrico Fermi Award (1987).
The American Journal of Physics described Alvarez as “one of the most brilliant and productive experimental physicists of the twentieth century.”
Another Nobel Prize winner, Mario Molina was a Mexican chemist who co-discovered the Antarctic ozone hole. His research on the harmful effects of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) on the Earth’s ozone layer got him the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1995. With this achievement, Moline became the first Mexican-born citizen to receive a Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
In 1993 he was elected to the United State’s National Academy of Sciences, and in 1996, to the National Academy of Medicine.
He has received many awards including the Esselen Award (1987), Newcomb Cleveland Prize (1988), NASA’s Medal for Exceptional Scientific Advancement (1989), and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2013).
Frida Kahlo, a Mexican painter, is probably the most famous name in this list, as she was played by Salma Hayek in a highly-successful, Hollywood movie (Frida, 2002). However, despite her controversial life and fame, the legacy of Frida revolves around her brilliantly colored self-portraits. Her style has been categorized as surrealism, although she didn’t like that.
During her early life, Frida was interested in studying medicine, not art. However, in 1925 she suffered injuries in a bus accident that changed her life. Apparently, she needed more than 30 medical operations and recovery was slow. During that time, she taught herself to paint and started painting self-portraits (realism).
After moving to the United States, Frida started wearing traditional Tehuana dresses which became her trademark but also showed her interest in Mexican folk art.
Frida Kahlo was a successful artist in her lifetime but her reputation and popularity grew a lot more after her death, to a point in the 21st century which critics refer to as “Fridamania”. Today, there are many books, movies, and museums dedicated to her life and work.
Roberto Goizueta was a very successful businessman born in Havana, Cuba in 1931. He worked on his father’s business before accepting an entry-level position in Coca Cola. Not long after, at only 35 years old, Goizueta became Vice President of Technical Research and Development in Coca-Cola. This achievement made him the youngest VP in the history of the company, and he still holds this title.
He led Coca-Cola for 16 years, during which time the company grew from $4.3 billion to more than $152 billion in stock, becoming the company we all know and love today.
In 1992 Roberto created “The Goizueta Foundation” which aims to provide financial assistance to educational and charitable institutions.
What Do You Think?
We hope our article will be a useful resource for this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month. We shared a bunch of practical classroom activities through which you can teach students about some of the most important Hispanic figures. To help you out, we picked 9 famous Hispanic figures that, one way or another, shaped our society and included a detailed description of their greatest achievements.
Additionally, using our National Hispanic Heritage Month facts & Worksheet bundle, you’ll be able to organize a fun and meaningful lesson without spending countless hours on preparation. And, for all of your future lesson plans, you can simply browse through our worksheet library, as we have everything you’ll ever need.
Don’t forget to also visit our blog, where we share valuable information for parents, teachers, and homeschool tutors.
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