Students Can’t Be What They Can’t See: Tapping into YouTube to Teach International Women’s Day

03/06/2017 10:56 am ET Updated Mar 06, 2017
<em>Summer Ash, DreamWakers’ Speaker &amp; Director of Outreach for Columbia University&#39;s Department of Astronomy.</em>
Summer Ash, DreamWakers’ Speaker & Director of Outreach for Columbia University's Department of Astronomy.

One in four Americans believe humans are more likely to colonize Mars in their lifetime than for half of Fortune 500 CEOs to be women. With this in mind, it’s hard to dispute the idea that International Women’s Day 2017 is a good time for the education community work for change on behalf of our future female leaders.

This is why the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day celebration — “Be Bold For Change” — is the perfect call to action for teachers. Not only does it encourage the empowerment of young women to be proactive agents of positive change in their communities, in their future workplaces, and in the world, but it also charges educators to boldly take on teaching topics about women’s equality and empowerment.

But recruiting strong female leaders to step away from their busy lives to speak to students in local classrooms can be pretty difficult. And that is only one side of the equation. We all know that teachers face immense obstacles in carving out time from rigid and necessary schedules for such visits.

That’s where DreamWakers comes in. We are spreading the word about our network of real and relatable female role models who are available to classrooms across the country on March 8. How? By showcasing some of our diverse and dynamic professional women on YouTube.

As an education technology nonprofit that virtually connects career mavens with some of our nation’s most deserving classrooms via free video chat, DreamWakers believes kids can’t be what they can’t see. So we set up the technology to make it happen. Female leaders don’t need to leave the office to participate in these video chats, and the DreamWakers team alleviates much of the behind-the-scenes work for teachers, as we find, vet, and match the right speaker with the right classroom. We record each session, and today we’re making them available on YouTube for teachers everywhere!

Harnessing the power of YouTube is an easy way for teachers to introduce role models to young scholars. This is why DreamWakers is dedicating the entire week around International Women’s Day to the “Be Bold For Change” theme with a specially curated YouTube playlist featuring video highlights of some of our most powerful female career professionals. Featured speakers include: Yasmeen Alamiri, Reporter at CCTV; Isra Chaker, Public Speaker & Syrian Activist; Lee Chan, President of Oreganic Design; Debra Cleaver, Founder of; Ahiza Garcia, Reporter at CNN Money; Icema Gibbs, Co-Founder of JetBlue; Amini Kajunju, President & CEO of the Africa Institute; Diarrha N’Diaye, Social Media Manager at L’Oréal; Soledad O’Brien, Award-Winning Broadcast Journalist; and Nuria Santamaria Wolfe, CEO of Canticos, formerly at Twitter.

It’s been our experience that exposure to career role-models is especially important in high-need classrooms, which is where DreamWakers traditionally operates. Why? Because low-income students in particular benefit from exposure to diverse professional role models with whom they can relate. And while exposing underserved youth to role models in various careers is enormously important, exposing girls to female role models is essential. Consider a few figures: for our young girls, poverty is associated with a nearly $200 annual increase in cash assistance and a six-fold increase in the likelihood of bearing a child out of wedlock prior to age 21. Further, more than eight in ten Americans believe that not having women in leadership positions as role models results in a lack of inspiration within that demographic, and has contributed to preventing women from securing leadership positions in their fields. While that statistic deals with women of working age, as with any developmental experience, making real and relatable connections with female role-models has the greatest impact at an early age.

Leveraging DreamWakers’ International Women’s Day videos and activities (below) is a simple yet powerful way for teachers to spark dialogues about tough issues such as the portrayal of women in the media, workforce equality, and perceptions of powerful women. By exposing students to strong and successful female role models from diverse backgrounds — including scientists, doctors, politicians, artists, musicians, journalists, and more — teachers can help students see what they one day might be.

To do so, we need to take the International Women’s Day theme to heart and boldly teach for change throughout the month of March. Let’s be bold in our creativity and find new ways to expose students to female career role models; our young scholars can’t be what they can’t see. Let’s be bold in our approach to harnessing the power of new technologies and embrace how they enhance, not replace, the many benefits of classroom learning. And finally, let’s be bold in our unrelenting encouragement of every student so that they might believe in the power of their minds, of their passions, and of their dreams.

International Women’s Day YouTube Activity for 7th-12th Grade Teachers

Provide students with a bit of background (ideally on 3/7/17).

· "Who knows the significance of tomorrow, March 8? It’s International Women’s Day, a day in which groups around the world take time to celebrate many types of achievements of women. The theme of International Women’s Day 2017 is Be Bold for Change. I’d like for us to keep this theme in mind as we think about our own boldness, and learn about bold women of today and of the past."

Assign homework (ideally on 3/7/17).

· In just a few sentences, explain what you think is meant by the phrase: "Be bold for change.”

· Research a woman — alive or from history — who took risks to change a bad situation. In a paragraph, describe her story. Who was she? What risks did she take? What was the outcome?

· Do you consider yourself a bold person? Have you ever taken a bold step to make a change in your community, school or home life? In three to five sentences describe your experience and the results you achieved.

Introduce the International Women’s Day in-class activity (ideally on 3/8/17).

· “Today – in honor of International Women’s Day – we get to watch YouTube videos! We will watch and reflect upon a few of DreamWakers’ YouTube clips. What is DreamWakers? They are an organization that brings real-world experts into classrooms like ours over video chats, like Google Hangouts. They record parts of the sessions and post them on YouTube. So these are the clips we’ll be watching today.”

Depending on your classroom situation and tech availability, ask students to watch 3-5 videos on the DreamWakers’ Be Bold for Change YouTube playlist. Then, in small groups or in a whole class discussion, ask the below questions.

· What do you think was the key takeaway of the speaker's story?

· What about the speaker's story surprised you?

· Were you inspired by what the speaker shared? Why or why not?

· If you had the opportunity, what question would you ask the speaker?

· Could you see yourself taking the advice that the speaker gave? Why or why not?

· What are three adjectives you would use to describe the speaker. Are these qualities you would like to emulate? Why or why not?

· Describe what (if any) stereotypes about women you see on TV or social media.

· How do these stereotypes compare to the real-life speakers we watched in these clips?

Assign a research project.

· Identify a woman from history who has changed the world.

· Write a short paragraph describing the cause she worked on, her method of bringing change and describe the outcome. Include your opinion of the importance of the change.

· Use these resources from the Learning Network at the New York Times for examples of three women who were bold for change. Be prepared to share about one woman's boldness in a three-minute presentation in class tomorrow.

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