My elementary school is taking a year-long look at what it means to be strong, thanks to the book Strong is the New Pretty by Kate T. Parker. Each month, we focus on a new chapter and trait. I've incorporated this into my science class by pairing each trait with a picture book biography of a woman in a S.T.E.M. field. This series of posts details each month's work.
Chapter Three of Strong is the New Pretty, and November's trait, is resilient. I had to do a little word work with my students before I could introduce our featured woman and read her picture book biography. I introduced the word and asked students to raise their hand if they had never heard the word, had heard the word but didn't know what it meant, or thought they knew what the word meant. As expected, I had raised hands for each category. We discussed that resilience is the ability to bounce back or keep going during hard times. A few students shared examples of resilience from their own lives, and many connected it to perseverance, another trait we have discussed as a school.
I chose to feature Caroline Herschel as an example of resilience. Not only did she live in a time where women were expected to marry and serve as housekeepers, but she also fell ill with both typhus and smallpox as a child. Her father predicted that she would never marry due to her short stature and scarred face. In fact, she did not marry and lived much of her adult life with her brother, William Herschel, who became a noted astronomer. Caroline served as his assistant and eventually became the first professional woman scientist, discovering several comets as well as other celestial objects.
I read Caroline's Comets: A True Story by Emily Arnold McCully to my students to introduce them to Caroline Herschel's life and work. The book is beautifully illustrated and contains excerpts from Herschel's own memoir. This was a great opportunity to introduce that genre, as well as the importance of primary sources, to my students. The book also gave them plentiful examples of how Herschel demonstrated resilience, including a memorable scene with a large hook!
After reading and discussing the book, students drew pictures and wrote about Herschel to add to our class bulletin board. Check back soon for pictures of their work!