We are celebrating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on the ClubX Blog! Be sure to read Part 1 of this series for information on the BGCA STEM Challenge. Get those prizes!
STEM can be intimidating for adults, let alone young girls. But when it’s presented in an approachable way, it’s much easier to see how exciting and valuable STEM really is. Luckily, there are plenty of great resources that do just that. Today’s post features lists of movies and books that highlight women in STEM. In each category, one resource includes a few discussion questions to get you started! Click the titles for trailers or purchase links.
Note: It isn’t just important for girls to learn about the history of women in STEM or to see women featured in those roles. When boys see women participating in STEM, it can help break down prejudice and normalize the concept that STEM is for everyone. So while you should certainly use these resources in girl-only groups, consider using them with your youth as a whole as well.
Hidden Figures (PG): Hidden Figures shares the lesser-known story of three black female mathematicians who worked at NASA during the space race. Despite their superior intelligence and capabilities, they faced constant doubt and discrimination. The inspiring film shows their perseverance and contributions to aeronautics.
- Discussion Questions:
- How were Katherine, Mary and Dorothy challenged by discrimination? How did they succeed anyway?
- How has the experience of women working in STEM changed since the 1960s?
- Mary said “someone has to be first” as she was working to earn her engineering degree. Why is being first at something both exciting and scary?
- When did you notice people standing up for Katherine, Mary and Dorothy? Why was it important for them to have male supporters?
- What would you do if you were told you could not pursue a career or job because of how you look or who you are?
Black Panther (PG-13): Ok, so you may already be familiar with this massive blockbuster of 2018 (Wakanda Forever!) But this one’s worth a second watch (or third or fourth) to see women portrayed as the leaders in technology and innovation. Black Panther wouldn’t be who he is without the inventiveness of Princess Shuri!
The Imitation Game (PG-13): During World War II, cryptographers were enlisted to help crack the code of German machines to intercept Nazi messages. While this was mostly a man’s world, Joan Clarke plays a key role in the code-breaking operation that ultimately deciphered the encrypted communication. This film also features LGBTQ themes.
Wonder Park (PG): This is a great one to look forward to! As a young girl, June imagined a massive amusement park with amazing rides and talking animals. As she grew older, she lost that sense of imagination until she found the park, Wonderland, had come to life in the woods. This comes out March 15th and would make a great trip to the movies.
CodeGirl: This documentary follows girls ages 10-18 from around the world who enter the Technovation Challenge in Silicon Valley. They use technology and teamwork to solve problems and improve situations in their communities. Seeing girls their own age in this kind of environment can make STEM approachable for young female viewers.
Books for Elementary-Aged Youth
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty: Rosie is determined to create a flying machine for her Great-Aunt Rose, but when she tests her invention, it crashes. She learns that it wasn’t a failure because she didn’t give up. This book teaches perseverance and also includes pieces of aviation history. Plus it is part of a series!
- Discussion Questions:
- What are some words you would use to describe Rosie? How did her personality change throughout the book?
- Why do you think Rosie hid all her machines and inventions at the beginning of the book?
- Have you ever had an idea for something you wanted to invent? What was it?
- Why was Rosie so discouraged when she built the airplane for Rose? What did Aunt Rose say to make her feel better?
- Have you ever felt discouraged when something you wanted to make didn’t turn out the way you planned? What did you do next?
Grace Hopper, Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark: Grace Hopper was a pioneer in computer programming and “taught” computers to speak English. This book introduces girls to the world of coding and the possibilities that go along with it.
Ada Lace, On the Case by Emily Calandrelli: Ada is a 3rd grade scientist and inventor. In her latest adventure, part of a series, Ada uses her homemade gadgets and knowledge of science to investigate the dognapping of her neighbor’s Yorkie. This title is part of a series!
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca: This rhyming book tells the story of Temple Grandin, who was diagnosed with autism and used her visual thinking to study animal science. It includes a biography, fun facts and a note from Temple. This book is part of a series about Amazing Scientists.
11 Experiments That Failed by Jenny Offill & Nancy Carpenter: Failure is part of experimentation and this book takes a humorous approach to showing just that. Along the way, it teaches the scientific method while asking questions like “can a kid make it through the winter eating only snow and ketchup.”
Girls Think of Everything by Catherine Thimmesh: This book highlights the versatility of science and the wide impact it can have on the everyday world. Examples range from windshield wipers to the chocolate chip cookie to show the contributions women have made to science.
Books for Older Youth and Teens
Deadly by Julie Chibbaro: A young adult historical fiction novel, Deadly tells the story of the typhoid fever outbreak and Typhoid Mary. The story follows the 16-year-old narrator, Prudence, as she assists in a lab to investigate the illness and uncover its cause. Here are some discussion questions:
- What stereotypes of women during that time do you see in the girl’s school? Why do you think Prudence wants “a job that’s meaningful?”
- What are some characteristics Prudence has that would make her a good scientist?
- How is the work she does with Mr. Soper different from working as a doctor?
- What are some of the challenges Prudence has to face as a female scientist? What are some challenges all scientists face?
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren: This memoir by geochemist and geobiologist, Hope Jahren, uses the anatomy of a plant as a metaphor for her life (the “Roots and Leaves” section describes her childhood.) She describes her experiences while also addressing the larger issues of gender equality in the scientific field.
Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson: The novel’s focus is Kate, a high school senior who excels at subjects like chemistry and calculus. The periodic table is used as a comparison to her organized and logical lifestyle, but Kate must learn to adapt when she faces obstacles in her personal and academic life.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Debra Bogart: The story itself, which takes place in Texas in 1899, centers on 11-year-old Calpurnia, who works with her grandfather, a naturalist, to understand why yellow and green grasshoppers are different sizes. The bigger picture speaks to the challenges historically faced by female scientists and how they were overcome. This funny novel also has a sequel!
3:59 by Gretchen McNeil: High school student Josie thinks she’s found an escape from her problems at home and at school when her dreams of a girl named Jo turn out to be a parallel universe. But when she discovers that life in the alternative universe isn’t as perfect as it seems, she needs to figure out a way to unseal the portal to get back home.
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan: This book about a 12-year-old genius combines messages about family, being different, and coping with grief. The main character has a passion for nature and diagnosing medical conditions, but has trouble connecting with others until an event forces her to step outside of her comfort zone.
What are your favorite movies or books that feature women in STEM? How do you integrate literacy and STEM? Tell us your best ideas in the comments below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or at ClubXBlog@bgca.org to share with the Movement!