Hidden Figures—starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe—tells the ‘untold’ story of three African American female NASA mathematicians during the Space Race of the 1960’s, and was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer’s portrayal of Dorothy Vaughan. The powerful story behind Hidden Figures has made waves around the world and is encouraging young women, especially young women of color, to follow their dreams and pursue studies and careers in STEM.
Inspired by past and present women working in STEM, the classroom curriculum guide highlights the dedication, confidence, and academic excellence that these three women conveyed in the film. The guide is made up of eight comprehensive, standards-aligned lesson plans for middle school-aged students, and is interdisciplinary, offering various lenses through which students can approach the social issues raised by the film.
“The first few lessons in this guide will help students understand the context in which the events of Hidden Figures occur. In the spirit of Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughn’s creative determination, Journeys in Film’s lessons trace the increasing animosity between Communist nations and the West, the pressure-filled context in which the women at Langley were working, the logistics of the U.S. space effort and the vital role served by the “human computers” portrayed in the film. Students will also research the Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education in the timeline of key events during the Civil Rights Movement, which provide a deeper understanding of the actions activists and ordinary citizens undertook to end segregation,” said Journeys in Film.
21st Century Fox recently completed the “The Search for Hidden Figures” contest to uncover the next generation of female leaders in STEM, and distributed over $200,000 in scholarships to two grand prize winners and ten runners-up. In partnership with AMC Theatres, 21CF has also organized free screenings around the U.S. to celebrate February’s Black History Month and March’s Women’s History Month, and schools and community groups were invited to apply for free hometown screenings as well. “We at 21CF were inspired by the grassroots movement to bring this film to audiences that wouldn’t otherwise be able to see it—audiences that might include future innovators and barrier-breakers—and we wanted to support and extend that movement,” said Liba Rubenstein, 21CF’s Senior Vice President of Social Impact.
Teachers can download the Hidden Figures curriculum guide for free from Journeys in Film, and beginning in May, high schools can also request free DVDs to screen the movie for students across the U.S.