FOR THE WEEK OF MAR. 06, 2017
'Hidden Figures,' a hit film about NASA pioneers, is entertainment that educates and inspires
Look for news about a person or company in a technical field. How does that type of work benefit the public?
Read about another movie now in theaters. Why do or don't you want to go, or what did you think of it if already seen?
Can you spot coverage of an activity or product that’s educational as well as entertaining? Explain how it's both.
"Hidden Figures" is more than an entertaining, Oscar-nominated movie. It also can inspire career ideas – especially among young women. That's the hope of educators, parents and professionals who see the box office hit as another way to get students thinking about science, math and engineering as interesting and useful. The film, set in the 1960s at the start of America's "space race" with Russia, tells the true story of black women who worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and perform critical calculations that helped send astronauts into orbit and onto the moon. Free screenings have been offered to schools and youth groups in many cities, particularly during Black History Month in February.
In another outgrowth of the film and a 2016 best-selling book it's adapted from, the Lego toymaker introduces a Women of NASA set that pays tribute to five space agency pioneers. The miniature figures include Sally Ride, the first U.S. woman in space, and Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space. Another honoree is NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, one of the three math whizzes who are the focus of "Hidden Figures." She's 98 now and was honored on stage during the Feb. 29 Academy Awards telecast. (The film was up for best picture and two other prizes, but didn't win.) In 2015, Johnson was given a Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contributions to space flight. She got a standing ovation at the recent Oscars ceremony.
All of this attention to women in the space program reinforces the national priority placed on STEM education in science, technology, engineering and math as practical career preparation. "The people on the screen look like the people in STEM today, who hope to be astronauts, doctors, engineers, and mathematicians," IBM engineer Nefertiti Stanford told about 150 Philadelphia ninth-graders last month after a free showing of "Hidden Figures." "It’s the least likely people who change the world, and that's why I'm here: to inspire the next group who will change the world through STEM studies and careers."
Student says: "It [the film] paved a way for me to want to persevere and go for the career that I choose." – Cavana Carey, high school senior in Hartford, Conn., who wants to be a doctor
Actress says: "We were honored to be in an inspiring film about three women whose brilliance made our nation's achievements in space possible." -- Taraji Henson, at Oscars show
Professor says: "Data shows that women and minorities are selectively sorted out of engineering, math and science careers." – Anjelica Gonzalez, Yale University biomedical engineer
Front Page Talking Points Archive