Showing Courage Like the Changemakers Who Came Before Them

What woman inspires you? 

This question was posed to the grade 4 class in early March when they began their end-of-year project on influential women throughout history. From suffragettes to scientists and spies, the Class of 2028 looked inward at their own interests to decide who they would like to research and outward as they sifted through dozens of books on gutsy women to inform their choice. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Marie Curie, Wilma Rudolph, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Lucille Ball were just a handful of the women who made the final list.
While the women students selected were as diverse as the girls themselves, one thread that connected them all was their collective courage and commitment to their cause or craft. Whether it was fighting back against oppression or pursuing avenues that weren’t traditionally considered fit for women, these changemakers persevered when they were confronted with Plan B—and it just so happened that this year the Class of 2028 would have to embody those same characteristics as well. With the move to remote learning, grade 4 students could no longer work together in-person and share their findings in the traditional wax museum format of years past. They would have to work independently and exercise flexibility and fortitude as they collaborated digitally to complete the project.

“This year, the girls had to call upon many of the same character traits of the women they researched to complete the project,” said Jessica Nolan, grade 4 teacher. “They had to be determined, flexible, and resourceful. They had to step outside of themselves and into their woman’s shoes. I was so impressed with how the class overcame unforeseen obstacles just like the women they learned about did.”

Because each student had already selected who they would feature prior to remote learning, the class was able to continue their work, albeit in a new way. For instance, Ms. Nolan led lessons on how to write historical diary entries on Zoom, and students came together to share ideas and updates on their work during virtual office hour sessions. Sometimes students would log on for the 11:00 a.m. sessions and just work quietly in unison together, Ms. Nolan shared. A simple and thoughtful gesture to show their desire to be connected, regardless of their physical location.

After weeks of preparation and research, students compiled their work—essays, diary entries, and artwork—into a digital scrapbook and delivered a virtual presentation in costume for their classmates, teachers, and families. Situated in front of Zoom backgrounds related to their woman’s journey, grade 4 students recited original speeches live in character and educated each other on dozens of women who raised their voice, problem solved in the face of the unknown, and blazed new trails. A unique way to study women’s history (while living through historic times themselves), this cumulative project encouraged students to make meaningful connections to the past from the shoes of women who will inspire their future.
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