Hidden Figures & Drew Charter School

April 3, 2017

To promote STEAM education, AndACTION worked with Drew Charter School to host “Hidden Figures”screenings for more than 1,400 students, teachers, parents and community members in Atlanta.

Image Credit: Johnny Tarajosu

ABOUT THE FILM:

Based on a true story, the film “Hidden Figures” centers on three African American women who made John Glenn’s first orbit around the Earth possible. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) employees Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan are played by Janelle Monáe, Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer, respectively. Topping the box office during opening weekend and several weekends thereafter, “Hidden Figures” offers opportunities to promote STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) education to achieve strategic aims such as the following:

Strategic Aims:

  • Demonstrate model behavior through the story: The film’s three main characters exhibit perseverance in the face of inequality and a true appreciation of STEAM education.
  • Challenge the status quo: Each woman challenged cultural and legal norms to advance their own skills and to become a critical part of America’s space program.
  • Create community: Friendship, collegiality and family are the critical support systems that enable success.
  • Create a new social norm: Black women are celebrated leaders in STEAM, they are no longer “hidden figures.”

What We Did:

Activity:

Film screenings. Want to bring us to your town? Get in touch with us for free technical assistance. We’ll help you develop or adapt a plan to efficiently and effectively use pop culture in your classroom.

Background:

Drew Charter School promotes a cradle-to-college pipeline, primarily serves low-and-middle income students and has a STEAM- and literacy-focused curriculum. Supported by the East Lake Foundation in partnership with Atlanta Public Schools, Drew Charter is “an essential component of a community-wide initiative that helps families break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.”

To support school and community film screenings, we helped create materials that mapped the film to the students’ curriculum, including: toolkits, panel discussion questions, pre- and post-screening activities, and lesson plans for teachers. Additionally, to promote literacy, we tapped our connections to secure two signed copies of the youth version of the book “Hidden Figures” authored by Margot Lee Shetterly.

“We have been talking about Hidden Figures in 5th grade Social Studies! It was perfect timing, as we just covered the space race and the Civil Rights Movement.” – 5th grade Drew Charter Social Studies teacher

Results:

  • Four screenings for more than 1,200 schoolchildren in 2nd-12th grades, attended by an additional 100 teachers, staff and parents
  • Two signed copies of the “Hidden Figures” book in the school’s lending library (in high-demand)
  • A community screening that attracted more than 100 people
  • A panel discussion about STEAM career opportunities

The screenings were received with delight by students and adults alike!

As a bonus, one of the student events included special guests — elderly residents from Villages of East Lake, a mixed-income apartment community. These seniors were alive during the time period in which the film is set, and when equal access to education for African Americans was prohibited by unjust laws. Seniors were able to watch the film alongside 2nd and 4th graders in a STEAM program, something many of them only could dare to dream about when they were kids. Movies have a special power to foster these kinds of intergenerational connections and allow viewers to witness advances in social justice. While the seniors were touched by the film, they reported that the most captivating aspect was watching the kids react to the story of three African American women who changed the course of history.

“I can’t believe that nobody knew that Katherine Goble Johnson helped guide John Glenn around Earth! I mean, that is not cool to forget. I also learned what it was like when [legally imposed and enforced] segregation was still around.” – 5th grade Drew Charter student

The community screening included a small reception with Drew’s Head of STEAM, Head of Project-based Learning and Head of College and Career Readiness. A post-screening panel offered an entry point to community conversations about how STEAM learning can provide access to academic and career paths.

Thanks to our generous donors, AndACTION is able to assist philanthropic, nonprofit and other social good organizations arrange film screenings, similar to the ones described above. Our services are free of charge. For more information and support, please email us at info@andaction.org.