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 Four of Strong is the New Pretty, and December's trait, is creative. This word was easily understood by my elementary students. During a think-pair share, they explained the word in these ways:
"You are creative when you take trash and turn it into something new."
"You can be creative by solving math problems in different ways."
"You are creative anytime you make something."
I chose to highlight Ada Lovelace, a woman who lived in the 1800s and who is widely considered to be the first computer programmer. Ada's creativity was shown throughout her life, including her desire to invent a steam-powered flying horse and her work with Charles Babbage on something called "the Analytical Engine." Although this engine was never built, Ada's lengthy notes show incredible insight into its potential uses and some basic programs. Her notes influenced Alan Turing's work on the first modern computers nearly 100 years later.
Ada has been the subject of several recent picture books. Two of my favorites are Ada's Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World's First Computer Programmer by Fiona Robinson and Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer by Diane Stanley. Both include captivating illustrations and a well-written narrative. I couldn't choose, so I alternated which title I read to my classes and made the other book available for independent reading.
My students enjoyed these books and eagerly made connections between the punched cards Ada envisioned being used in the Analytical Engine and the code used by Margaret Hamilton during her work for NASA's Apollo project. They created drawings and wrote about how Ada Lovelace displayed creativity for our bulletin board. Check back soon for pictures of their work!