Resources For the Classroom to Celebrate Black History Month

by Starr Phillips, IEEE REACH Program Specialist
Feb. 11, 2022

Happy Black History Month! 

February is a great time to celebrate the history and influence of African Americans in the technology industry. The IEEE REACH “Skyscrapers” and “Electric Lighting” Inquiry Units present an opportunity to shed light on two Black inventors who have changed the world with their ground-breaking and life-changing contributions to the fields of architecture and electricity, respectively.

Skyscraper Section with image of Alexander Miles


With the “Skyscraper” Inquiry Unit, students explore the impact skyscrapers had on society and how the development of these buildings spurred further technological advances. Within the lesson, you will find contributions of Black inventor Alexander Miles, who invented the final piece of technology that made the elevator suitable for skyscrapers in 1887 – the automatic elevator door. With automatic doors still a standard feature on modern-day elevators, use this unit as an opportunity to introduce your students to the Black inventor behind the invention.

Electric Lighting Section with image of Lewis Latimer


The Electric Light Inquiry Unit explores the connections between the invention, commercialization, and adoption of electric lighting, as well as alternative forms of artificial illumination in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The unit features a biography and video of Lewis Latimer, a Black inventor who was instrumental in the development of the light bulb. The video offers a fascinating look at the challenges and triumphs of Latimer’s life and detailed descriptions of his work developing the electric light bulb. It also details the many obstacles he faced in terms of racism and discrimination as an inventor in the 1800s.

We hope these resources provide useful ideas for you to integrate Black history into either your Social Studies or STEM curriculum this month. We highly recommend giving them a try in your classroom!

If you have any specific suggestions or questions about REACH resources or want to share your experiences using REACH in the classroom, we would love to hear from you by emailing

About IEEE REACH Lesson Plans:

The program provides full lesson plans that are researched and vetted by Ph.D. Historians. The plans include formative and summative performance tasks, excerpted documents, and civic actions, which make the material relevant to students’ lives today. They are designed in an inquiry format that encompasses engaging students through compelling questions and inquiry, using and evaluating evidence to answer questions and communicate answers, and participating in civic actions. Inquiries are supported by primary sources, short engaging student videos, and hands-on activities.

All the program’s resources are available via the REACH website and meet both the United States and International education standards. These standards include, in the U.S., the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) C3 (College, Career, and Civics) standards and the Social Studies Common Core standards, in addition to the Next Generation Science Standards. They also meet the International Technology and Engineering Educators Associations’ (ITEEA) Standards for Technology and Engineering Literacy or STEL.