We Can Be More was a project that was completed with a group of Year 9 students, the project took place over the course of 10 weeks and primarily looked at Women’s History. However the project wasn’t simply a history lesson with a few drama techniques thrown in for good measure, the project aimed to explore what women’s history meant in itself and why it was relevant to look at these historical figures in today’s society, whilst also aiming to inspire the students for their futures.
With so few women in today’s current curriculum who do we expect girls to look up to for inspiration? Do we take an uneasy step into the world of celebrity and media where beauty is everything? Or do we provide children with role models from a varying background of historical achievements, from the first doctor to the inventor of Kevlar. Something is needed to create inspiration across all jobs and professions, because women have been in these roles for hundreds of years, but nobody is talking about them.
The project looked at a range of historical figures including Qin Liangyu, the first female Chinese general during the Ming Dynasty, a woman who fought against all odds to lead her troops to numerous victories and gaining a high achieving award from the Emperor. Another figure we looked at was Margaret Hamilton who fresh out of college earned a job at NASA and became a computer engineer specialist writing the code for the Apollo spacecraft computers, whilst simultaneously raising her young daughter. Hamilton then continued to advance in her scientific research before opening a science centre that bears her name.
These women were not intended to educate the students about what they did, but instead show them how they did it, they were asked to consider what they overcame and what they achieved. The students could reflect upon words and actions, put themselves in their positions to ponder a decision they made, and were asked if they would do the same.
The part of the project that struck me the most was when a girl stood up and said she hated the word ‘women’. Why? We asked. She replied with frustration that she hated it because of what it meant, that it always brought a negative connotation which she didn’t feel she (or any other woman) deserved. This did not solve the problem that was presented to her but showed that above all else she had recognised a struggle. Something had become clear and it was worth changing and complaining about until something did change. Enquiry allows students to discover the world and its misgivings and in some cases may spark a desire to change those misgivings and inspire young people to look for a fairer future.
We Can Be More was a journey that allowed students to discover themselves and the inspiring women who can be positive role models for their future.