Let’s Start a Movement for Hidden Figures
I am over the moon (pun intended) excited about the upcoming release of the movie Hidden Figures.
I think this movie is a tremendous opportunity for science education—It’s a chance for us to teach the human side of science, along with a healthy dose of social justice. And it’s got me thinking about how we can make this a movement.
I must admit that until I saw a trailer for this movie a few months back, I did not know who Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson were, and that speaks to the inadequacy of my own education, as well my need to do better as a teacher who cares about making sure that all of my students see themselves as future physicists.
I can remember watching The Right Stuff, as a child, and for the following year, my dreams were of going to the air force academy and becoming a test pilot. I believe this movie has the power to inspire students and to challenge all of us to make our world more equitable and just so that each of us can live up to our full potential.
So how do we make this a movement? Here are some thoughts:
- What if we organized school-wide trips to see the movie? This is easy for me as a boarding school teacher but were I back in teaching in day schools, I think many kids would have liked an invitation to meet me at the theater to see this movie.
- What if we created a teacher’s reference guide? So far, I’ve seen a pretty cool contest to identify modern day Hidden Figures, and an effort by IBM to celebrate STEM role models, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of resources our there for the teacher who wants to build a lesson or a unit around the film. The Wikipedia pages of Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson seem rather sparse—and don’t begin to answer all the questions a student might have about this film like:
- How Many Women were employed as “computers” by NASA in the 1960s?
- How do you calculate the trajectory of a spacecraft like Apllo 11?
- How does the math I’m studying now in (elementary/middle/high school) connect to this work?
- How has the experience of women and under represented minorities working in science changed since the 1960s?
What if some enterprising teachers tried to create some resources and lesson plans to support this film? We could start by just collecting some of the resources that are out there, like this great interview with Katherine Johnson.
- What if we organized discussions? There are sure to be people who go to the movie who would like to talk about it more. This seems like a great opportunity for science outreach. Could we hold a meetup in January in our various towns to talk about the film? Could we advertise it at our local theaters? Could we organize virtual discussions?
- Surely NASA sees that this movie might inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers—so might some NASA scientists and engineers be willing to host skype Q&A sessions with students?
These are just the first thoughts floating through my head. There are probably people out there who are working on this that are more closely connected to this film and these issues than I am as a while CIS male. If you know of anyone who is doing education outreach work for this film, please point me in their direction—I would love to support their efforts.