Lower Schoolers Study African American Women in STEAM

Fourth graders recently put their research skills into action to highlight pioneering African American women in STEAM fields. 

Students delved into this project as part of their recognition of African American History Month and Women’s History Month. After researching the lives and scientific contributions of these innovative historical figures — such as mathematicians Katherine Johnson, Shirley Jackson, and astronaut Jeannette Epps — students honed their public speaking skills as they shared their knowledge with their peers and answered questions.

As part of their work, students shared how each woman displayed the key attributes of leadership found in Agnes Irwin Leadership Toolkit®, including responsibility, independent mindedness, and problem solving. The most prevalent attribute students noted about the groundbreaking scientists, however, was remaining resilient in the face of adversity. The project took on personal meaning for some students, including Braxton, who made an additional presentation about her mother, a food scientist who played a key role in developing PepsiCo’s Slice soda!

As students reflected on the experience, students highlighted the tenacity and bravery of these African American female scientists, noting how such figures were undaunted in the face of criticism, broke down barriers, were passionate about what they did, and shared their knowledge with others. Ms. Haines emphasized the role that such women have played in advancing STEAM throughout history. "[For] a lot of people, when they think of a scientist, their first image in their mind might be a white man," Haines told students. "I wanted you to be able to see that there were also a lot of African American women scientists that have been doing amazing things all along."

Additional presentations included:

  • Mary Winston-Jackson, scientist and mathematician
  • Evelyn Boyd Granville, mathematician
  • Mae Jemison, astronaut and doctor
  • Madam C. J. Walker, entrepreneur and activist
  • Mary Styles Harris, scientist
  • Patricia Bath, inventor and doctor

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