A Celebration of Culture: National Hispanic Heritage Month Activities for Students

Ational Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 Hero

Students love to participate in celebrations of all kinds—and some of the most exciting lessons for kids involve learning about traditions that may be new to them. As we seek to be more inclusive of all cultures, it’s important for kids to learn about the patchwork that makes the U.S. one nation with many different cultures.

National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated each year from September 15 through October 15 in recognition of Hispanic American contributions and influences in our society. In areas of education, science, technology, government, and arts and culture—to name just a few—Hispanic influence is innovative and far-reaching. National Hispanic Heritage Month activities for students of all ages allow them to learn about, celebrate, and acknowledge the history and heritage of Hispanic Americans.

A sense of togetherness embodies the Hispanic spirit, which is why Hispanic Heritage Month often celebrates family ties and culture. Family does not just include relatives, but also friends and neighbors. Music and food—there are so many traditional dishes to try—also play an important role in the festivities.

Hispanic Heritage Month is a great celebration for all because there’s always something new we can learn from one another, and we can appreciate the impact of Hispanic culture on our nation as a whole. Each of us uses words daily that are of Spanish origin—such as tomato, ranch, canyon, and more—often without realizing it. Many landmarks in our country are also of Hispanic origin. For example, St. Augustine, Florida, the first permanent European settlement, was founded by a Spanish admiral in 1565. Hispanic heritage is American heritage!

Hispanic Heritage Month Lesson Plan Ideas for School

These six Hispanic Heritage Month lessons and activities will enable your students to explore Hispanic culture and history in the United States.

Activity 1: Watch and Discuss the Mendez Family

Have your students watch this HISTORY® video about the Mendez family. Then, conduct a discussion in class. For Grades K–3, you could discuss why it’s essential to recognize the Mendez family and the actions they took that made a difference.

For Grades 4–5 students, have them write a short research paper about the relevance of the Mendez family in the fight for ending segregation in schools. They could use the internet to gather relevant information, then produce and publish their writing and share it in class.

Activity 2: Learn About Carmen Lomas Garza

In this literacy activity for Grades 4–5, students listen to a text that you read aloud about Carmen Lomas Garza, a Chicana artist who shares her life story through her art. Students should set a purpose for listening, such as finding out who Garza is, what her art is like, and why she is important to learn about.

Activity 3: Read and Research Chicano Artwork

In this social studies activity, Grades 6–12 students research Chicano artwork from the civil rights movement and think about the messages people were trying to convey. Then, they will design a poster that communicates their stance on an issue.

Activity 4: Explore the Life and Work of César Chávez

In this social studies activity for Grades 6–12, students explore the life and work of César Chávez. Then, they write responses to questions about this historical figure.

Activity 5: Study the 1960s Grape Boycott

In this social studies activity for Grades 6–12, students research the economic damage caused by the 1960s grape boycott and display their findings. In September 1965, grape workers walked out on strike because of poor pay and conditions. The grape workers asked for the support of César Chávez and the National Farm Workers Association (a primarily Latino farm workers’ union). Chávez tried to ensure that strikers remained nonviolent.

Activity 6: Launch Into Real-World Modeling with Functions

In this math activity for Grades 9 and up, students first learn about Dr. Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to go into space when she served as a crew member aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. Then, they participate in an activity that lets them explore functions using the real-world example of a Space Shuttle launch.

We hope you find these Hispanic Heritage Month lesson plans and activities helpful as you celebrate with your students, whether you focus on Hispanic Americans’ cultures, biographies, or achievements.

Have more ideas for Hispanic Heritage Month? Share your favorites with us on Twitter (@HMHco) or Facebook, or email us at Shaped@hmhco.com.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.

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Learn more about HMH Social Studies, which presents the rich, endlessly inventive story of our world, challenging students to dig deep into the past.

This blog, originally published in 2020, has been updated for 2021.

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