Celebrating Women in Science this Women's History Month
Updated: Mar 23, 2022
Every year, Spitfire's winter programming is built around a unit of nonfiction titles about women in history. This year, we've been learning more about Women in Science!
Since early February, we have traveled to space with Drs. Mae Jemison and Ellen Ochoa, built bridges with Emily Roebling, crunched numbers with Dr. Katherine Johnson, swam with the sharks and Dr. Eugenie Clark, and we've planted seeds of change with Dr. Wangari Maathai. (these are affiliate links - a portion of proceeds benefit Spitfire)
In addition to the weekly curriculum, 4th and 5th grade Spitfires have chosen a scientist to learn about through an independent research project. The twist is: the only objective is that Spitfires demonstrate that they learned about their scientist. That's it! Any format, any medium. Spitfires were allowed to choose their own scientists and they also chose their own groups or to work independently.
There's a lot of research that supports the idea that students should feel a sense of ownership over their learning. We can't wait to see what our Spitfires come up with later this month, but preliminary collaborations look promising! Spitfires will also be making soda bottle dolls in the likeness of their woman scientist, so stay tuned for photos of this!
It's worth noting that, aside from featuring women scientists, this unit has another common thread: every single title we read featured a theme of exclusion, bias, racism, and/or sexism. We didn't do this on purpose - it's just the reality of the plight of these amazing women.
So, while we were exploring scientific concepts, we also took this opportunity to explore topics such as microaggressions, implicit bias, structural racism, segregation, and gender equity. Not only did we learn what these terms mean, Spitfires shared their own experiences with and perspectives on bias and exclusion, validating their peers' experiences and giving voice to something that always felt wrong but didn't have a name. Never think that kids can't handle these topics: they have lived it and they know exactly what we're talking about, they just may not have all of the vocabulary to describe it.