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Grounded in the empowerment of women in historical and contemporary STEM leadership, the Hidden Figures curriculum guide highlights the determination of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, three black women known as “human computers” who were employed by NASA in Langley, Virginia. These women transcended the discriminatory biases of colleagues and community members to achieve their goals and become 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.
THE CURRICULUM GUIDE
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|
IN THE COMMUNITY
On January 10th, as part of the LA Promise Fund’s Girls Build LA program, experts in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) joined the talent behind Hidden Figures to show girls that whatever they dream – they can achieve – if they set their minds to it. 10,000 girls from Los Angeles County schools came together for a very special screening of Hidden Figures at USC’s Galen Center. The girls were treated to a pre-screening program featuring Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Pharrell Williams, and Aldis Hodge. The program also featured activity lead for NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover, Diana Trujillo, and a video from space by NASA astronaut and first female commander of the International Space Station, Peggy Whitson. It was emceed by Biomedical Scientist, Senior Policy Advisor, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and former teacher Knatokie Ford. The girls were inspired by the speakers, all of whom affirmed their ability to blaze new trails, to reach new heights, and to pioneer paths in STEM.
Journeys in Film, USC and the Rossier School of Education is honored to have been involved in the event, and was especially proud that Journeys in Film was invited by the LA Promise Fund and Girls Build LA to provide the the Hidden Figures discussion guide.