‘Hidden Figures’ Is Bringing STEM Education Empowerment To The Classroom

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Since its release, Hidden Figures has been a global phenomenon. It told a story about history that a lot of people did not know about. It shed light on hidden figures in one of technology’s most important explorations and in the process, opened a whole new world up to future people of color in STEM. When there’s no representation, people do not always know the full extent of the opportunities out there. Hidden Figures helped us see potential that we sometimes aren’t privy to. Since then, conversations surrounding the topic of more people of color pursuing STEM education and becoming involved in the tech world, in chemistry, in engineering, and mathematics. Organizations like Google have begun to allocate millions of dollars in efforts to align themselves with a more diversified team of STEM professionals. And that’s not all.

The stars of Hidden Figures – 48th Annual NAACP Image Awards

Hidden Figures, directed by Theodore Melfi, is said to have been the driving force behind Journeys In Film creating a curriculum based on the film’s most teachable moments. Via the Journeys In Film site, “Grounded in the empowerment of women in historical and contemporary STEM leadership, Journeys in Film’s HIDDEN FIGURES curriculum guide highlights the persistence of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson to achieve their goals despite the discriminatory biases of colleagues and community members and rise as 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.”

In case you weren’t familiar, Hidden Figures follows the real life black women who were behind the successful missions of Apollo 11 and Apollo 13: Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughn. The movie is a retelling of real life events that happened in the 60’s and emphasizes the “hidden figures” whose minds made the technological advances we see today possible. The film has gone on to win many awards and has reached $230 million in global sales thus far.

According to the Journey In Film syllabus, the curriculum consists of “eight comprehensive, standards-aligned lesson plans for secondary students. The lessons are interdisciplinary; they can be used independently, or teachers may opt for a team approach that will give students multiple lenses through which to consider the relevant issues, historical and contemporary, that are raised by the film.”

The fact that the curriculum is grounded in a film that might be familiar and inspirational to young people might help young people become more interested in the subject matter and STEM at younger ages. According to a 2012 Forbes article, having role models who do STEM plays an important factor in whether or not children will want to pursue STEM-related careers. While America is in need of more STEM students overall, there is a clear deficit amongst women in STEM and people of color in STEM.

This Hidden Figures curriculum might be a positive first step to closing that gap in the future.

Photo Credit: iStock/PR Photos

Sheriden Chanel is a twenty-something writer, Beyoncé enthusiast, and lover of all things visual art. Keep up with her and her musings on social via @indiebyline.