PBS recently announced the launch of Ken Burns Classroom on PBS LearningMedia – a one-stop online destination for free teaching and learning resources inspired by Ken Burns’s renowned documentaries. Created for 6-12th grade educators, the new hub houses a full library of classroom-ready content – aligned to state and national standards – to help students further explore the complex historical events and issues illustrated in Ken Burns’s films.

Ken Burns and his collaborators have been creating historical documentaries for more than forty years. During this time, his signature style has brought documents, images and video footage to life for viewers around the globe. These films, and the supplementary learning content on Ken Burns Classroom, encourage students to ask thought-provoking questions while introducing new ideas and perspectives.  

"It’s wonderful to see how educators across the country are using our films in their classrooms. By presenting them alongside interactive tools and lesson plans, PBS LearningMedia is helping students better understand the connection between historical events and the present,” said Ken Burns. “Through these resources, my hope is that we can further interest young people in the power of history and help them better understand the complexity of issues we face today, including the connection to the past and their relevance to the future.”

Ken Burns Classroom features hundreds of video clips, lesson plans, activity suggestions, discussion questions, handouts, and interactives to help educators integrate the films into their classroom instruction. This will include important historical events, people and moments-in-time such as international wars, the Roosevelt family and the Industrial Age. The hub will kick off with documentaries including “Country Music,” “The Vietnam War,” “The Central Park Five,” “The Dust Bowl,” “The West,” “The Civil War,” “Jackie Robinson,” “Lewis & Clark,” “Prohibition,” “The Roosevelts,” and “The War,” and more will continue to be added in the coming months.

“The stories we often hear from educators about the ways in which they use these films in their classrooms has been nothing short of inspiring,” said Sara Schapiro, Vice President, Education, PBS. “We’re thrilled to be working with Ken Burns to offer these important, carefully curated resources on PBS LearningMedia.”

“Ken Burns documentaries are fantastic. They bring difficult to understand moments in history to life in a way that other classroom methods can't,” said David Olson, high school social studies educator and PBS Digital Innovator. “The interactive tools and lesson plans in the Ken Burns collection on PBS LearningMedia are indispensable. They help me create hands-on teaching moments and allow my students to more easily grasp the intricacies of American history.”

PBS LearningMedia, a partnership between PBS and WGBH, is an online destination that offers free access to thousands of resources from partners and PBS stations who work to make them available to teachers in local communities across the country. Nearly one million unique users visit the website each month to access free, high-quality, classroom-ready resources. Since its launch in 2011, PBS LearningMedia has continued to evolve with the growing and changing needs of educators to ensure quality and relevant content is provided to educators at no cost.

All Ken Burns Classroom resources and content are publicly available and can be accessed by visiting PBS LearningMedia at https://pbslearningmedia.org/kenburns.

Content in Ken Burns Classroom was funded in part of members of The Better Angels Society.

How are you using Ken Burns' content in your classroom? Let us know in the comments below!