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Strong is the New Pretty and Women in STEM (Part 1)

Are you familiar with the book, Strong is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves? It is a gorgeous collection of 175 photographs of girls, organized into chapters according to different traits that redefine what it means to be strong: creative, wild, resilient, fearless, determined, and so on. And as if the photographs weren't enough in and of themselves, they are accompanied by quotes in which the girls explain what makes them strong and beautiful.

Strong is the New Pretty cover image

My school decided to spend the year studying this book with our own students. After all, it's a natural fit for our elementary girls. We kicked off the book with an assembly in which our division director (aka principal) and counselor shared quotes from the author and teachers shared pictures and stories of times that they embodied the nine traits. As an entire Lower School, we are focusing on a single trait each month - reading and discussing the trait in homerooms.

I decided to add to the project by highlighting women in STEM who exemplified the nine traits through their lives and work. Today, our librarian and I read through a stack of picture book biographies and planned out each month's focus. September's trait is "confident," and I'm excited to share Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing by Dean Robbins. As the book details, Ms. Hamilton believed in herself and her mathematical calculations even when faced with great challenges.

Margaret and the Moon cover image

My students LOVED this book. They really connected with Margaret Hamilton's character and story. We also watched a short video clip from the PBS series, "Makers" after we read and discussed the book. Some of my third graders drew pictures and wrote about how Ms. Hamilton demonstrated confidence for the bulletin board outside my classroom. They were also inspired to write her letters telling her about the project!

bulletin board

student work

A final note: our faculty chooses a theme each year for our Halloween costumes. This year's theme was strong women in history, and I opted to dress as Margaret Hamilton. It was a hit - and the girls recognized me instantly! I think I did a pretty great job, don't you?

Margaret Hamilton costume and historical photos

Check back each month this school year to learn about a new trait from Strong is the New Pretty and a corresponding woman in a STEM field!

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