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Celebrate women in STEM for International Women’s Day


By Nikitha Fester (she/her), BCTF staff

 

International Women’s Day is March 8, and it recognizes the contributions and accomplishments of women and girls worldwide. It is also a moment to acknowledge the inequity that still exists and the work toward closing economic, social, and political gaps. Women and their innovations in the world of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are often minimized, erased, or forgotten.


Dr. Nadine Caron

One example is Dr. Nadine Caron, the first Indigenous general surgeon in Canada. Dr. Caron is a member of the Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation and is a surgeon, professor in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC, and the biobank project lead at the University Hospital of Northern BC. Dr. Caron first began her studies at SFU, where she was a starter for the SFU basketball team and top student in kinesiology. She then pursued her medical studies at UBC, and during her medical residency completed a master’s of public health through Harvard University. After completing her residency, she moved to California where she completed a postgraduate fellowship in endocrine surgical oncology. Once back in BC, she began practising as a surgeon and became founding co-director of the UBC Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Health. Her biobank initiative will enable northern British Columbians, including members of rural and remote First Nations communities, to have more equitable access to genomic research into different types of cancers. In 2016, she was awarded the Dr. Thomas Dignan Indigenous Health Award from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons.

 

Below is a lesson, suitable for Grades 5 and up, on women in STEM.


Image credits:

Posters by Storythings (www.storythings.com)/Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence (CC BY 4.0) https://qrco.de/bejuD8

Dr. Nadine Caron, image by Flickr user Simon Fraser University, Communications & Marketing/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence (CC BY 2.0) www.flickr.com/photos/sfupamr/



Women in STEM lesson

Materials

  • tablets/laptops/library time

  • STEM role models posters; these posters are available in French, Spanish, German, Portuguese Brazilian, simplified Chinese, and English and are a great addition to classroom walls—especially in modern languages classrooms!

  • poster paper if necessary

  • projector.

Time

  • one period for research and one period for presentations.

Curricular connections

  • historical thinking (cause and consequence, and ethical judgment).

 

Part 1

1. Present and explain what International Women’s Day is to the students.

a. Ask why do you think we have International Women’s Day? What purpose do days of celebration serve? What more do we need to do to achieve change (for women or any other group students mention in the conversation)?

2. Have posters around the room either printed or displayed on tablets, and have students circulate and pick a scientist who interests them.

3. Explain to students that they will make a three-minute presentation in groups on the scientist of their choice. They can use PowerPoint, Prezi, Piktochart, or whatever software you’re comfortable with. The presentation must include the following:

a. Scientist’s full name.

b. Area of study/work.

c. Major contributions/what are they known for.

d. At least three photos related to the content of their presentation.

e. Students must answer one of the following critical questions:

i. What are some positive consequences for students when they learn about the accomplishments and contributions of racialized women?

ii. Does your group think the value of women and their contributions to society has increased, decreased, or remained the same since International Women’s Day became popular? Explain your position.

iii. How would society improve if the inclusion of the contributions of diverse groups happened more regularly and consistently in schools?

4. Have students research and create their presentations.

5. Have each group bring in one object that symbolizes the woman they’ve selected.

6. Have students present on the woman they’ve researched.

 

Part 2

1. Collect the symbols of the women.

2. Place them around the room (this can be done outside, if more space is needed).

3. Say aloud the name of one woman and students must locate the symbol that represents that woman. If they choose wrong, they will sit down.

4. Repeat until all names have been read.

 

Part 2 can be eliminated if not feasible. You can also have students draw a symbol for the selected woman instead of bringing in a small object.

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