Influential Women Brought to Life by Creativity and Technology
Influential Women Brought to Life by Creativity and Technology

Second grade girls celebrate Women's History Month by bringing influential women to life, building life-sized models and connecting them to computer programs to share their stories and accomplishments.

Every March in Diane Holland's second-grade classroom, the girls celebrate Women's History Month by studying influential women. Each girl chooses a woman to research and report on, and then the class comes together to bring four of the women to life.

Over the years, the complexity of the project has grown. This year, the girls built models of the four women – Maya Lin, Althea Gibson, Louise Nevelson and Sonia Sotomayor – using life-sized wire dress forms, complete with papier mache appendages and clothing made from found materials. And if you press a button, they talk.

"Bringing technology into the project has taken it to a new level," says Diane, who helped the girls record sound effects and facts for each figure using Scratch, and then wired them to Makey Makey kits activated by copper buttons. "Delivering information using different materials was a way to elevate and change the project and made it really exciting for the girls," she added.

It's also a seamless way to introduce technology into the second grade curriculum, according to Educational Innovation Coordinator Krista Inchausti, who purchased the Makey Makey kits a few years ago. Makey Makey is an electronic invention tool initiated by students at MIT's Media Lab that allows users to connect everyday objects to computer programs. Using a circuit board, alligator clips, and a USB cable, the tool uses closed loop electrical signals to send the computer either a keyboard stroke or mouse click signal.

Bringing the influential women to life with sound also bridges the gap between creativity and technology. "Technology is just a tool," says Krista. "If you use technology for technology's sake, it's a waste of time. You need to make it context driven." It was also a way to introduce technology to second graders, something that often doesn't happen until middle school.

Diane is hopeful that these kinds of projects will convince more girls to continue working with technology and robotics as they get older. "Teachers can't be afraid of bringing technology into the classroom," she says, "and the younger the students, the greater the chance that their interest will sustain."

Once the models were completed, they were displayed in the front lobby of the Flood Mansion, entertaining and educating visitors as they entered the school. Now they've been stripped and stored away until next March, when the next group of second grade girls will use them to bring four more influential women to life.

To learn more about this project, you can read Krista's story, which was picked up by the team at Makey Makey and republished on their own site as an example of the conversion of technology and education.

Photo credit: Krista Inchausti

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