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What in the World? October History Lessons You Can Teach at Home (Part 1)

by David Engle | Oct 08, 2020 | 5 min read

This is a fascinating world we live in. When you step back and look at it, something historic has happened literally every single day. Sure, some events are bigger and more important than others, but think about it…history is made every day.

In this new, regular blog series, we’re going to look at world history by month, with two blog posts each month that list momentous events in the history of the world–and inspiration for lessons that you can teach your children at home!

Let’s get started with October!

October 1, 1946: Twelve Nazi leaders are sentenced to death at the International War Crimes Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany.
The Nuremberg Trials, as the series of trials of Nazi war criminals came to be known, took place over the span of five years (1945-1949), but one of the hallmarks of these trials took place on October 1, 1946, when a dozen Nazi leaders were sentenced to death for their roles in the Holocaust. This event presents an opportunity to teach your student about the Holocaust, genocide, the Nazi Party, and other events that created a dark spot in our world history.

October 2, 1967: Thurgood Marshall is sworn in as the first African American associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.
A groundbreaking achievement during the heart of the Civil Rights movement in America, Thurgood Marshall became the first Black justice on the Supreme Court after being appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and sworn in by Chief Justice Earl Warren. Justice Marshall held the seat until 1991, and during his tenure, he was known as a supporter of affirmative action, the reproductive rights of women, and the rights of criminal defendants while opposing the death penalty and any type of discrimination. This event offers plenty of potential lessons–from civil rights to the celebration of firsts for African Americans.

October 2, 1968: Redwood National Park is established in California.
Home to the largest trees in the world, Northern California’s Redwood National Park is not only a popular attraction for tourists as well as locals, but it’s also a safe haven for all types of wildlife and plant life across 40 miles near the California coast. The park was established in 1968 and continues to inspire visitors. Using this occasion, why not teach all about redwood trees, national parks, and conservation as part of a science class?

October 2, 1869: Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi is born.
Mohandas Gandhi was born in Porbandar, India and later achieved worldwide recognition for his devout lifestyle and nonviolent resistance. It was that resistance that eventually ended Britain’s rule over India. Through hunger strikes, meditation, and a peaceful approach, Gandhi was–and is–known as one of the great politicians and spiritual leaders in the history of the world. Not only does Gandhi himself make for a captivating lesson, but you can also use that as a jumping-off point for lessons about protests, spirituality, and the history of India.

October 3, 1990: East and West Germany unite after 45 years.
Known as Unity Day in Germany, October 3 marks the long-awaited unification of East and West Germany that finally occurred in 1990. Since the end of World War II, communist Russia had long occupied eastern Germany, while the United States and other Allied forces controlled western Germany. And the sides were physically divided by, yes, the Berlin Wall, which started to come down about a year before official reunification. Divided Germany personified the Cold War, which effectively ended after a reunified Germany elected Helmut Kohl as the new chancellor of the country. Use this momentous occasion to teach and learn about Communism, the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the history of Germany.

October 8, 1871: The Great Chicago Fire starts.
Legend has it that the O’Learys’ cow kicked over a lantern in a barn, starting one of the most destructive fires in history. Others say it was a meteor, some say humans started it. Whatever the cause, the Great Chicago Fire spread across four miles of The Windy City, destroying everything in its path–approximately 300 people died, thousands of buildings and businesses were burnt to the ground, and damages totaled more than $200 million. But in the aftermath of this tragic event, Chicago rebuilt and laid the foundation toward becoming the thriving city it remains to this day. Lessons here could revolve around Chicago’s history, the danger of fire, other historic fires, and even firefighters.

October 9, 1940: John Lennon is born in Liverpool, England.
If your kids aren’t aware of The Beatles, this is the perfect opportunity to teach them. After all, The Beatles were (and continue to be) arguably the most influential band in the history of music. No band could change their sound from album to album–and still maintain the highest level of songwriting and musicianship–as The Fab Four. They took the world by storm in the mid-1960s and continued to make music for their adoring fans into the early 1970s. As one of the principal songwriters and singers (along with Paul McCartney), John Lennon was the face of music for generations. His life was cut tragically short when he was assassinated in December of 1980 in New York City. Not only can John Lennon’s life open the door to teach about music, but there are plenty of lessons on pop culture, peaceful protest, and even assassination that could come from his 40 years.

October 11, 1884: Eleanor Roosevelt is born in New York City.
She was best known as the wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but Eleanor Roosevelt was a role model for independent women everywhere. She took her role as first lady seriously, always looking to improve people’s lives across the world. She made history in 1933 by becoming the first wife of a president to give her own press conference at the White House. Mrs. Roosevelt traveled the world on her own and served as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations for several years. A champion of human rights, Eleanor Roosevelt passed away in 1962 having left behind a legacy for all future first ladies. Use Mrs. Roosevelt’s life as a lesson on women’s rights, first ladies, and even the United Nations.

October 13, 1775: The United States Navy is born.
One of America’s proudest institutions, the Navy, was formed in 1775 after the Second Continental Congress signed off on the purchase of a fleet of ships. Since then, the United States Navy has been maintaining, training, and equipping combat-ready naval forces to deter aggression and maintain the freedom of the seas. Use this event to learn more about the Navy as well as the other branches of the military, decorated Naval Academy graduates and Navy veterans, and the role that the U.S. Navy has played in key events throughout history.

October 14, 1890: Dwight D. Eisenhower is born.
One of the most respected military leaders and popular presidents in American history, Dwight D. Eisenhower had quite the accomplished career before he was even inaugurated in 1953. Prior to his presidency, “Ike” was a West Point graduate who became Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during World War II and a Five Star General in the United States Army. General Eisenhower’s leadership and resolve helped the Allies prevail over Hitler, Mussolini, and other Axis forces in World War II. His popularity maintained a high level throughout his two terms as president, and he’s widely considered one of the best presidents in U.S. history. Dive deeper into Eisenhower’s political and military career as well as World War II, D-Day, NASA (which he founded in 1958), and the United States Armed Forces.

That does it for historical figures and events through the first half of October. Stay tuned for the second half of the month, coming soon! In the meantime, check out our partner site,, for more fun and factual lessons!

David Engle
Hello, and thanks for reading! I’m David Engle--dad, husband, sports fan, and writer/editor. As a father for the last 18 years (father of two for the last 14), I consider myself to be pretty well-versed in all things related to education, childhood, and parenting, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to share some insights and knowledge with fellow parents. I have been a professional writer and editor for a quarter of a century (it pains me to admit that) and have been writing in the educational space for a number of those years. I reside in southern New Jersey with my wife, two kids, two dogs, and three cats. Never a dull moment.
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