Can you recall a favorite memory from your childhood? Part of what makes that memory or story powerful is the fact that it's yours; you lived it. You experienced it! Women's History Month provides us an opportunity to look back at the lives of memorable women and recall their stories. It allows us to draw on their strengths, obstacles, and adversities, walk a mile in their shoes, and celebrate the way life is today, in part because of them.
Check out these top ten easy-to-implement, ready-to-use lesson ideas for celebrating famous women and their stories in your classroom this month:
#1 - Take a Trip: We may still be somewhat limited when it comes to travel, but don't let a global pandemic stop you from taking a trip to a museum. Have your students visit the Women's History Museum and explore the virtual exhibits. Here students will find a mix of exhibits focused on individual women like Harriet Tubman, as well as focused exhibits featuring women in STEM, women in the military, and famous inventors. Encourage your students to create a virtual museum brochure highlighting some of the many exhibits museum patrons will find when visiting.
#2 - Pick a Person: If you are looking to introduce your students to female scientists and explorers, consider using this list of picture books. Each biography is certain to inspire boys and girls alike as they hear the stories of brave women who created, explored, and contributed greatly to the world at large. After reading these stories, encourage your students to write a letter to one of the women studied. What would your students tell this famous female if they could? How has their work or life changed the way we see or live in the world?
#3 - Get Messy: Do you want to create a memorable experience for your students? Get messy! In honor of Kate Sessions-the first female science graduate from the University of California and the woman responsible for planting most of the trees in San Diego, California-why not plant a tree? Invite your students to learn more about Ms. Sessions by listening to the online reading of The Tree Lady, a picture book about her life. Once you are finished, plant trees in her memory. Students can plant trees (or saplings) at school or in their neighborhoods.
#4 - Ride Sally, Ride! On June 18, 1983, Dr. Sally Ride made history by becoming the first American woman in space. Honor her legacy by creating space helmets from recyclable materials. Especially easy to implement during distance learning, this can inspire your students' creativity and interest in science and in art!
#5 - Up, Up, and Away with Amelia Earhart: Amelia Earhart was one of the first female pilots and the first woman to pilot across the Atlantic Ocean. She made a brave and daring attempt to fly around the world, but sadly, her plane vanished. Encourage your students to learn more about Amelia Earhart and then honor her life and work with a paper airplane contest! Have students work individually or in small groups to design paper airplanes. What design can fly the furthest? Which design can fly the fastest? Here are some folding suggestions to help your students get started.
#6 - Suffering Suffragettes: Most students can relate to the idea of something not feeling fair. Whether it's a sibling with a later bedtime or a friend who's allowed more screen time, no one likes the way it feels when someone around them is granted permission to do something that they themselves cannot. This inequity is what spurred the suffragettes to fight for women's rights. Introduce your students to the suffrage movement. Have them compare and contrast women's rights back when the movement began and women's rights now. What has changed? Do women now have equal rights? Allow this rich student discourse to inspire higher-order thinking about the past and the future of women's rights.
#7 - Stories about STEM: Historically, women have been underrepresented in STEM professions. That is due, in part, to students not always being aware of the breadth of careers available. Invite your students to listen to untold STEM stories as women talk about their personal STEM heroes. These quick audio files will introduce your students to likely unknown women in STEM and help peak student interest in pursuing a STEM career in the future.
# 8 - Read and Color: No time to plan? Quick, engaging, ready-to-use Women's History Month resources for all grade levels can be found at edHelper.com. Print quick read and color books on famous women in history or opt for a document-based activity using primary sources as a basis for comprehension. These will be perfect for bell work, early finishers or for small group instruction as the varied levels make differentiation a breeze.
#9 - Living History: History is happening! The events of today will be the history of tomorrow. Have your students think about the women in their lives. Ask them to interview a woman they admire. Using a series of interview questions for research, they can learn more about a friend, family member, or neighbor and then write a brief narrative about that person's life and experiences.
#10 - Make Your Mark: There are many phenomenal books that can be used to support your students' appreciation for women in history. These free, printable bookmarks can not only help your students mark their place in their book but also encourage them to make their mark in history!
The stories of brave, daring, and diverse women in the past have paved the path for today's brave and diverse students. Let's celebrate that! As our students see themselves in relatable stories from the past, they will be more inclined to see the limitless potential they have as the future history makers of tomorrow!