This page provides information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about Clara Barton. It is designed to complement the Clara Barton topic page on BrainPOP Jr.

Explain to students that a humanitarian is a person who works to improve the lives of others. Together brainstorm humanitarians who have made a difference in people’s lives, including Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Tell students that Clara Barton was a humanitarian who founded the American Red Cross, an organization that provides relief to victims of natural disasters, wars, and other traumatic .

Barton was born in 1821 in North Oxford, Massachusetts. When she was eleven, her brother got into a serious accident, and Clara learned how to administer medicine and change his dressings. She successfully nursed him back to health and this sparked a lifelong mission to help others in need.

Barton became a schoolteacher during a time when it wasn’t considered appropriate for women to have jobs outside the home. While teaching, she discovered that many families couldn’t afford school (at the time, most people had to pay to attend). This compelled her to open the first free school in New Jersey, and soon hundreds of students were enrolling. When it came time to name a principal, however, a man was chosen because the job wasn’t considered suitable for a woman. Deflated, Barton headed to Washington, D.C. where she worked at the United States Patent Office. There she was the first woman to be paid the same as a man for the same job. She was often mistreated by other men in the office, who felt slighted to be working alongside a woman. Eventually she was fired from her position.

Then in 1861, the Civil War broke out. Barton sprang into action and gathered donations to the soldiers. She even delivered supplies to the battlefield herself. She helped injured and sick soldiers, discovering that some of the soldiers had been her former students. She helped whoever was in need, on both sides of the war. She believed that if someone needed help, then she’d be there for them.

After the war, Barton traveled to Switzerland, where she learned about the International Red Cross.  The mission, or goal, of the International Red Cross was to help people in need, no matter who they were. The organization inspired Barton and when she returned to the states, she persuaded the government to establish the American Red Cross.

Barton organized hundreds of volunteers to help people in need during war, disease, and natural disasters. After a hurricane in 1893 in South Carolina, Barton and her team arrived on the scene and quickly went to work. They focused their efforts on helping African Americans affected by the disaster. At that time, African Americans did not have the same rights as whites and were often treated unfairly. Many people criticized Barton’s efforts to help the African American community, but Barton always remained clear of the mission — to help anyone in need.

Explain that today the American Red Cross gathers donated food and clothing to help those in need, organizes blood drives for donations, and teaches people first aid, or emergency medical assistance. They are among the first to arrive at the scene of disasters and a valuable organization that people rely on during tough times. Together with your students, discuss how we feel Clara Barton’s influence today and how everyone can get involved with helping the whole community.