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The Film – Hidden Figures
Hidden Figures has been a popular success, filling theaters all over the country and receiving many award nominations. Its subject is a previously unheralded group of women whose brilliance and dedication provided a foundation for the space program—the black women known as “human computers” who worked at the NASA Center in Langley, Virginia. Faced with obstacles to their own education and to job prospects because of race and gender, these women succeeded in earning places, and eventually respect, in a workplace dominated by male supervisors and colleagues and marked by segregated facilities, from office to restroom, that reflected life in the pre-civil rights era.
The Curriculum Guide – Available for Free
Hidden Figures is ideally suited for use in the classroom, but teachers want students to do more with a film than passively view it. To make integration of this film into the curriculum more feasible, Journeys in Film has prepared eight comprehensive, standards-aligned lesson plans for secondary students. The lessons are interdisciplinary; they can be used independently, or teachers may opt for a team approach that will give students multiple lenses through which to consider the relevant issues, historical and contemporary, that are raised by the film.
Grounded in the empowerment of women in historical and contemporary STEM leadership, Journeys in Film’s HIDDEN FIGURES curriculum guide highlights the persistence of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson to achieve their goals despite the discriminatory biases of colleagues and community members and rise as leaders in the fields of mathematics and engineering. Their lives model vital lessons in confidence, structural equity and academic excellence that apply to all students to take flight with today.
Designed primarily for social studies classes, the first few lessons in this guide will help students understand the context in which the events of Hidden Figures occur. In the spirit of Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughn’s creative determination, Journeys in Film’s lessons trace the increasing animosity between Communist nations and the West, the pressure-filled context in which the women at Langley were working, the logistics of the U.S. space effort and the vital role served by the “human computers” portrayed in the film. Students will also research the Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education in the timeline of key events during the Civil Rights Movement, which provide a deeper understanding of the actions activists and ordinary citizens undertook to end segregation.
Introduction to Hidden Figures
Lesson 1: Bitter Rivals: The Cold War at Mid-Century (Social Studies)
Lesson 2: Sputnik and the Origins of the Space Race (Social Studies, Science)
Lesson 3: Moving to the Front of the Bus: Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement (Social Studies)
Lesson 4: The Women of ‘West Computing’: A Viewer-Response Approach (Language Arts, Social Studies)
Lesson 5: The Math of Space Travel: Orbits and Conic Sections (Geometry)
Lesson 6: Computers Come of Age (Physics, Programming)
Lesson 7: Shooting Scripts and Active Viewing (Film Literacy)
Lesson 8: The Women of Science (Science, History, Career Readiness)
Authors: Kate Fitzgerald, Jamor Gaffney, Ryan Chamberlain, Lara Tukarski McCormick, Glenn Klakring, Mary Kovacs, Jack Burton