Women’s History Month: 15 Ways to Celebrate Women and Their Contributions to History
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Women have always played an important role in our nation’s history. From fighting for civil rights to advancing the field of science, the contributions of women are recognized every March with Women’s History Month. Consider taking this opportunity to spend time with your kids to celebrate the accomplishments of women with these activities.
- Find out more about pioneering women: Take a trip with your kids to your local public library or search online for information about notable women, such as Abigail Adams, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Jeannette Rankin, Frances Perkins, and Sonia Sotomayor. Afterwards, see if your kids would like to create a poster or collage of some of their favorite women. Try incorporating symbols that are associated with each pioneer and give your kids the chance to present their work to family and friends.
- Conduct an interview: Let your kids use their interpersonal skills by suggesting that they interview someone they view as important in their life—a friend, family member, or teacher. Help them create a list of questions. Maybe they are interested in finding out their interviewee’s favorite book or what their interests were as a kid. Older kids may like more career-oriented questions, like those for the interview of female astronaut Kay Hire. Suggest to your kids that they preserve their findings by making a scrapbook filled with pictures and responses of whom they interviewed.
- Use social media to learn history: For older kids, see if they’d be interested in using social media to learn more about women’s history. They can try standing in the shoes of historical women by creating imaginary social media profiles for the female pioneers who interest them. See if your kids would like to have their friends join the fun by having them create profiles of other women as well. If these women are from different time periods—such as Harriet Tubman and Michelle Obama would be—what would they talk about if they could meet one another?
Science & Technology
- Spark interest in aviation: During WWII, more than a thousand women signed up to fly with the U.S. military. Expose your kids to the world of aviation by trying out some of these interactive online games. Then ask your kids where they would fly to if they could go anywhere in the world. Why would they go there and who would they want to go with?
- Learn more about computers and coding: Introduce your kids to women in computer science. Women, such as Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, a mathematician, pioneer in the field of computer programming, and a visionary who recognized the vast potential of computers and software applications, made significant contributions. She served in the Navy and led a team of researchers who worked on code compilers and data processing. Hopper was a co-inventor of COBOL (COmmon Business-Oriented Language). She is credited with coining the term “bug” for computer error after she found an actual moth in the Navy’s Mark II computer. The moth was taped into a daily log book!
Get your kids curious and excited about the code that runs computer software and games, tablet computers, and much more. Try some fun, interactive computer coding tutorials for beginners of any age from Code.org.
- Explore nature by drawing scientific illustrations: With your kids, go on a backyard exploration or visit a neighborhood, or state or national park. Don’t forget your sketchbook and pencils, and spend some time making drawings of plants, insects, birds, or other animals. Later see if you can look up and identify the scientific names of the plants, insects, and animals you and your kids observed and drew. Add those names to the drawings.
See if your kids know that Anna Botsford Comstock (1854–1930) made many contributions as a scientific illustrator and educator. She emerged as a leader in nature studies and was the first female professor at Cornell. As an artist she produced over 600 insect illustrations. As a teacher she opened the classroom doors and brought her students and other teachers outside to study nature firsthand.
- Find out more about women’s contributions to space science: Learn more about women in aeronautics, like the iconic pioneer Sally Ride, on the website of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride launched aboard space shuttle Challenger’s STS-7 mission and became America’s first woman in space. Build a model or make-believe space shuttle or space station with your kids. Younger children may enjoy making a rocket ship that could hold a stuffed animal or doll who could be the astronaut. You could even design and decorate a large, leftover cardboard box or boxes to be a space ship or station with crayons or markers, and let the children pretend to be astronauts on a space mission.
Tell your kids about Venetia Burney, the 11-year-old girl who suggested the name for the dwarf planet Pluto in 1930. She grew up to become a teacher of economics and mathematics. Listen to a NASA podcast interview with Venetia Burney Phair (mp3) from 2006, 76 years after her suggestion, or read the transcript. Kids can find out more about the solar system by watching a video from a 2013 Let’s Read! Let’s Move! event at the U.S. Department of Education, which included activities for young learners about the solar system and a story-time reading of Pluto’s Secret: An Icy World’s Tale of Discovery.
- Explore the world through women in math: Ask your kids if they have heard of Hypatia. This mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher lived in Alexandria, Egypt, in the fourth and fifth centuries AD. Her father, Theon, was a scholar and professor, and he taught her mathematics, astronomy, and more. Hypatia is known for editing On the Conics of Apollonius, simplifying cone-related concepts. Read more about Hypatia and biographies of other women of mathematics.
Mathematics involves theories and concepts that can be applied in practical, everyday uses. It’s important for both girls and boys to know that being good at math—and building excellent math skills— takes work and lots of practice. Try some fun hands-on activities and math games, and for younger children, check out counting games and more.
- Learn about women architects, and design and build a miniature structure: For inspiration, look up photographs of the works of contemporary women architects like Zaha Hadid, the first woman to receive the Pritzker Prize for Architecture in 2004. Among Hadid’s well-known designs are the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati and the Guangzhou Opera House in China. With your kids, draw the design for a house, school, museum, or other building. Help your kids find items around the house that can be used to build from the design (e.g., dry sponges, empty paper towel tubes, empty plastic milk containers, plastic kitchen funnel). If the building, model, or machine doesn’t work the first time, discuss and analyze why maybe it didn’t. Talk with your kids about how engineering can involve trial-and-error and developing a series of models or prototypes—each one a little more effective than the one before. Don’t give up!
- Find out about women in the arts: Women also have played a role in music over time. Help your kids gain an appreciation for some of pioneering female musicians—such as jazz musician Mary Lou Williams—by listening to some of their songs together. Have your kids make a list of some of their favorite pioneering female artists and spend some time talking about why they like those artists. What did they like about the songs? How do today’s songs sound different from songs back then?
Let kids know that women played roles in other areas of the arts as well, including photography and photojournalism. Find out more about female photographers, such as Dorothea Lange, whose work spanned five decades of history. Or read about the first female photojournalist, Jessie Tarbox Beals.
- Study women’s perspectives at an art museum or gallery: Tour the galleries of an art museum this month—in person or online—and focus on the works of women artists. Check out the National Museum of Women in the Arts website. Ask your kids what subjects, themes, and ideas the women artists expressed in their work. Call or check the museum’s website in advance of your visit to see if there are any special Women’s History Month events, activities, or exhibits. For more advanced students of art history, encourage them to learn more about the artists and the other women artists who influenced them. What threads of tradition, influence, and community can they trace between the works of women artists over time in art history?
- Recreate portraits of noteworthy women: Browse photographs or painted portraits of famous women who made history—like women’s rights leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton, artist Frida Kahlo, singer Marian Anderson, or architect Maya Lin. Get creative about your re-creation! Have your boys or girls of any age paint or draw their own versions of the portrait. If you’re recreating an older photograph, and you or your kids are handy with free or included camera apps or image software, use settings and filters to give your new image the color tones of the original image.
- Make your own quilt block inspired by quilts and women’s textile arts: Does your family have any heirloom quilts or other handmade textile treasures? Did you know that art and history museums display quilts made by individual artists and communities of quilters? With younger children, make a quilt-like or patchwork collage with fabric scraps or colorful papers on foam board or cardboard. If your kids are a little older and interested, see if there’s an opportunity to learn how to sew and quilt from a family member—even you if you know how—or a friend, or through an arts program at your school or community center. Quilting is a great way to apply mathematics skills, too—measuring, graphing designs, calculating fractional parts of a whole square, and drawing geometric shapes.
- Explore and express yourself with modern dance: Learn more about the mother of modern dance, Martha Graham, with A Dancer’s Journal activity from the Kennedy Center’s Arts Edge and the Library of Congress’s Martha Graham Collection. Search online for videos of dance performances, too, for inspiration. Then get moving and encourage your kids to choreograph and perform their own modern dance.
- Write some historical fiction in the voice of a heroine: With your kids, research and reflect about a heroine you find in a work of art. Imagine you are in her shoes. Younger children could write and illustrate an original, simple picture book. Older children could write fictional diary entries, and teens could create a Facebook or Twitter profile and status updates or tweets for Queen Zenobia of Palmyra or another woman depicted in art with ideas from the National Gallery of Art time travel children’s videos.
These are just a few of the many ways to spark your kids’ interest in Women’s History Month.
This feature is based on blog posts that originally appeared on free.ed.gov, a site that is now retired. Please visit ed.gov/FREE for more information.
Last Modified: 12/01/2015