Every day in America, classrooms watch and discuss Ken Burns's documentaries. The Civil War has been one of the most-used history films in American schools since its broadcast in 1990.
For the past twenty-five years, the Ken Burns name has symbolized a trusted resource for classroom use. The films are memorable, spark dialog, and provide an engaging way to understand history. Educational materials and activities created in conjunction with the films offer themes for discussion and use a storytelling approach to engage students in multimedia classroom projects. Now, with the wealth of new media opportunities available, Ken, his team at Florentine Films, and PBS are developing even more ways to deliver the films’ content, encourage civil discourse, and address the knowledge gaps in American schools.
Educator Page Views
From January 2013 to March 2016, the collective Ken Burns sites received over two million educator page views. More than 250,000 teachers have accessed lessons on Ken Burns sites in 2015.
When asked which films teachers used, the top response was:
70% of teachers surveyed found the lesson plans on Ken Burns’s sites “excellent” or “very good,” 75% found them easy to use, and 72.9% said they were appropriate for the intended grade levels.
The educational materials for Ken Burns’s documentaries challenge students to go beyond each film’s specific topic and explore the themes that are central to who we are as a nation. Developed around key curriculum subjects, including social studies, history, civics, and geography, they support critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration. They are also closely aligned with content-based and common core standards.
Classroom activities include carefully selected video segments that take advantage of Burns’s extraordinary ability to bring history alive through storytelling. By stimulating discussions and civic engagement, the materials give teachers powerful tools for demonstrating how history is urgently relevant for their lives now, and in the future.