Unsung: Using AR to Better Understand the Harlem Renaissance

Developed by Katie Reeve, PCM Play Practicum 2023
(FOCUS: Grades 4-5, Library, Design-Thinking)

In this lesson, grades 4-5 students will deepen their understanding of the Harlem Renaissance by exploring the life and accomplishments of two of its prominent female vocal performers using the AR application “Unsung,” which educators and parents can access for free via Verizon Innovative Learning HQ.

What will students do? 

  • Students will better understand the Harlem Renaissance as a cultural and artistic movement to build African American pride and identity.
  • Students will learn about two significant figures from the Harlem Renaissance: Florence Mills and Tiny Davis using immersive AR technology and the “Unsung” application.
  • Students will explore the lives and contributions of Mills and Davis to the arts and culture of the Harlem Renaissance.


Materials to gather

  • Devices for AR App “Unsung” (can be shared or individual)
  • Unsung Teacher Overview and Materials  Unsung  (Review Prior to Lesson)
  • Pictures of Florence Mills and Tiny Davis, or even short videos of them.
  • Chart paper and markers
  • Chromebooks with Google Slides

Set Up

An area will be needed for a read aloud, and possibly for video watching.

For using the Unsung app, students will need to have sufficient room to be able to spread out in groups in order to immersively explore the lives and accomplishments of Florence Mills and Tiny Davis.  

Students should be placed in pairs/trios to use the Unsung app. 

Student’s Job

Discover how Florence Mills and/or Tiny Davis rose above the challenges of their time and helped build black voices and cultural pride during the Harlem Renaissance.

  1. Explore the lives and accomplishments of Florence and Tiny using AR app “Unsung.”
  2. Different groups can be assigned diifering chapters in the lives of these women (as found within the app), or they can simply be allowed to just explore the various chapters and challenges within the app as their interests lead them.   
  3. Create a short visual summary of one of the women using chart paper and markers OR Google Slides to illustrate what they learned about one of the women through their immersive AR experience.  Including and/or focusing on her life, talents, achievements and contributions (particularly to the Harlem Renaissance). 
  4. Each group will present their creation to the class as a whole, or to another group, if time is limited.

Further Challenges:

Groups who finish their artistic responses early could extend this by using Google Earth to explore the Harlem neighborhood today!

Teacher’s Job

Standards Alignment

English Language Arts Standards (Common Core – Rhode Island):

  • Reading Informational Texts (RI.5):
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.1: Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.2: Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.3: Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical or scientific text.
  • Writing (W.5):
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.7: Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

Social Studies Standards (Rhode Island Grade Span Expectations):

  • Historical and Social Sciences Analysis Skills (HSSA):
    • HSSA 5 (Grade 5): Demonstrate an understanding of historical and social science concepts, such as chronology, cause and effect, conflict, and diversity, and how they are used to interpret and analyze historical events.
    • HSSA 5.12: Analyze how people have expressed themselves through the arts, beliefs, and ways of life in various times in different cultures.

Speaking and Listening (SL):

  • SL.1: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Visual Arts (if applicable):

  • VA:Cr1.1: Engage in the creative process to generate and visualize ideas.
  • VA:Cr2.1: Experiment and create artworks based on personal interests and themes.
Prepare/ Background Info

The lesson can begin with a read aloud of the picture book biography:  Harlem’s Little Blackbird, Story of Florence Mills  

A discussion and share out can be followed with more focused questions on:

  • What words describe Florence Mills? Brave, strong, talented, famous, determined, inspiring, creative, etc.
  • How might you use your voice to stand up for fairness, for justice?
  • How did the illustrations help the story? Which pictures or images do you remember from the book?
  • How do you think Florence felt when people wouldn’t let her family in the theater or hear her sing because of the color of their skin?  How would it make you feel?

Emphasize that the Harlem Renaissance was a period of great creativity and a celebration of African American culture, art, music, and literature and that it was a combination of the talents of many individuals – two of whom they will explore using AR!

Effective Facilitation Strategies
  • Asking students open ended questions to encourage language/vocabulary development and expression of ideas.
  • Providing children with a balance of instruction and time to explore and play with materials independently.
  • Providing support and scaffolding to students at a level that is appropriate to each student developmentally
Play to Notice (Learning Framework)
  • Child Centered: Students have the opportunity to make decisions about how they will artistically represent their understanding of Mills or Davis.
  • Choice: Students may choose which woman and what and how they would like to report on about her.
  • Challenge: Students can successfully complete the guiding questions and design challenge at whatever level they are at. Some students may create simple presentations, while other students may build more complex ones, even creating a multi-slide presentation.
  • Active: Students will drive the discussion and lesson with their ideas, observations, and questions. In addition, students will be actively working with AR technology to learn about the lives and accomplishments of one or both women.
  • Social Support: Students will be interacting with each other and with teachers throughout this whole lesson, sharing materials, technology, ideas, artistry, questions, thoughts, observations and wonderings in both large and small group settings.
Content Matter to Notice
  • Are students able to identify how the talents of 2 specific individual women led to growth of the Harlem Renaissance and African American culture and pride?
  • Are students able to talk about culture, art, history and community in an age appropriate way?
  • With or without teacher/peer support, are students able to persevere through challenges using the AR technology, or in the artistic process using coping strategies discussed and modeled?
  • With teacher support, are students able to utilize the AR app Unsung and plan, and create their responses?
SEL to Notice
  • Are children able to talk about their feelings when their ideas or designs don’t work out the way they planned or if they get frustrated using the AR application?
  • Are students able to persevere through challenges?


This lesson plan was created with support from Verizon Innovative Learning and NYU Tandon School of Engineering. For more learning standards-aligned lesson plans and access to free AR and VR edtech apps, visit Verizon Innovative Learning HQ.

About Us

Our mission is to inspire lifelong learning for all through play, creativity, and exploration.

Hours and Admissions

Open 7 Days a Week

9:30am to 12:30pm and
1:30pm or 4:30pm

Reservations are available online. Reserve your tickets now, or purchase walk-up tickets when you arrive.

Masks are optional for most activities at PCM.

Group Visits

Providence Children's Museum is the ideal place for school field trips, camp outings, homeschool and community group trips and Scout excursions.

For Families

We’ve collected an extensive resource of creative activities that will engage kids and their caregivers wherever you may be.

About Play

While society often overlooks and undervalues play, we are here to celebrate and elevate it. Because we know play isn’t frivolous. It’s foundational.

PCM Lesson Plans

Check out our library of lesson plans for teachers and families. PCM has created a variety of lesson plans for teachers by teachers for children pre-k through early elementary.

Become a Partner

PCM has brought the magic of learning to life for over 40 years. As a trusted resource for families and children in southern New England, PCM is an anchor in our community.

Become a Partner

PCM has brought the magic of learning to life for over 40 years. As a trusted resource for families and children in southern New England, PCM is an anchor in our community.

More than a Museum
PCM is committed to serving the children of southern New England – regardless of their financial ability. 40% of the Museum’s budget is dedicated to welcoming one-third of the Museum’s total audience free of charge or at greatly reduced rates through a variety of outreach programs.