How ‘Hamilton’ and other movies can spark a learning revolution

Don’t throw away your shot to use pop culture to teach kids history.

Mayra Leiva of Reseda, California, knew her eight-year-old son was a little interested in history. But she was surprised when all at once he became a walking encyclopedia, spouting dates and pretending every tire swing was a time machine. “It happened after he saw Night at the Museum,” she says. “Now he’s really paying close attention to history books. I’ve had to do a lot of Googling to keep up!”

Not many children will tell you that their favorite school subject is history. Memorizing dates and learning long-ago facts that don’t seem relevant isn’t exactly high on their fun list. Perhaps that’s why pop culture—movies, music, television, and even video games and comic books—can be such useful teaching tools.

“Teaching through pop culture helps students relate history to their own background and experiences,” says Gail Hudson, a fifth-grade teacher and 2020 Nevada Teacher of the Year. “It’s tying into something that’s already caught their interest.”

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