Bessie Coleman – Aviation Pioneer Lesson Plan

Grade Range: 9-12
Note: This lesson plan is designed to be part of a Social Studies unit. You may choose to include it in an U.S. History unit studying the early 20th Century, or in a History of Flight class focus.


The subject of this Aviation Pioneer lesson plan is Bessie Coleman. The web site sources for research contain a mix of comprehensive information regarding this famous aviator’s "ground-breaking" entry into the world of flying. The activities for this lesson include cooperative student learning teams investigating topics such as: Facts about Bessie Coleman’s life, and about her challenges in obtaining a pilot’s license. The students will access this background information by logging on to the web site resources as listed in this lesson plan.


  • The students will learn the significance of Bessie Coleman’s entry and place in aviation history.
  • The students will be expected to know detailed information regarding her double difficulties of racial and gender discrimination to become the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license.
  • The students should understand the history and difficulty leading up to modern day aviation, realizing that flight was not as simple as it has become today. The students will learn to investigate topics of interest through searches done on the Internet.
  • They will be learning interpersonal communication and teamwork skills in their cooperative learning teams. They will learn how to process and filter information in order to present only the information pertinent to their content category.

Teaching Strategy:

This interdisciplinary lesson involves both Social Studies and Language Arts. The students will be busy studying the history of Bessie Coleman, her challenges and her flying career, in cooperative learning teams and collecting information from the Internet. Each team should be assigned a content category, each covering a different aspect of Coleman. The students will also be required to write a short summary on their "facts" category that they investigated, which they will then make a presentation to the class.

The lesson should require five class periods in a block schedule of about forty minutes each day, and then one additional day. The 1st & 2nd class periods will be used to introduce the lesson and students will search the web and take notes. The 3rd & 4th class periods will be utilized to develop the summary and organize the oral presentation. The 5th class period will consist of students giving their presentations to the class. During the additional day, the students may take a field trip to the closest aviation museum or as an alternative, invite a local aviation historian to speak to the class on the subject.

Tools and Materials:

  • Library Learning Center computers. Enough for the class.
  • Internet Explorer or Netscape
  • Word Processing Program (i.e., Word or Word Perfect).

Internet Biography Sources: 

Above the Cotton Fields: The Bessie Coleman Story.

Bessie Coleman.

Bessie Coleman.

Bessie Coleman.…

Beginning Skills & Knowledge:

The students will be required to learn what Bessie Coleman accomplished and be aware of the significance of her place in aviation history. They will also need to know that her aviation career took place in the 1920’s, which is relative to the U.S. History unit looking at the early 20th Century. They will need to have computer skills and know search techniques on the Internet.

A classroom educator who is giving this lesson would also need to have basic knowledge of Bessie Coleman, which can be accessed, on the Internet Biography Sources, listed in the material above. It is assumed that the classroom educator has knowledge of computer technique and Internet search skills, to be able to assist students and guide them in their research process. A beginning teacher could accomplish teaching this lesson because it is designed to allow the students to learn who Bessie Coleman was through their own research. The educator will be in effect, a classroom manager and facilitator, maintaining positive classroom behavior as the teams are conducting their research.

Completion Evaluation: 

The lesson will be considered successful when the students have produced a comprehensive summary of their subject area during their oral presentations. Their success will be critiqued on the quality of the content as well as the quality of the presentation incorporating both Social Studies and Language Arts Standards. This lesson will also be considered successful if the students have manipulated the Internet in order to obtain the needed information. The presentation will be evaluated using a letter grade scale based on a scoring key that the educator designs for this lesson.

Alternative Variations:

The students may be allowed to search for web sites on the Internet on their own and not use the Internet Biography Sources provided above. This lesson plan could also be redesigned by using the same process to research other historic figures and events.


This lesson plan places the responsibility of learning directly into the students’ hands. Bottom-line, this lesson will teach the students to value the importance of flight and the aviators who had significant impact upon aviation history.

National Curriculum Standards:

McRel Standards at,