Women, Their Rights, and Nothing Less: Spread Women’s History in Your Local Schools

 

Looking for innovative ways to increase your branch’s visibility? Want to put valuable, free resources in the hands of students? Use this Program in a Box to collaborate with schools and bring women’s history to life in local classrooms with the Women, Their Rights, and Nothing Less online learning module. The learning tool was built by the innovative Newseum in Washington, D.C., and includes materials from AAUW’s archives. Women, Their Rights, and Nothing Less investigates the suffragists’ pioneering use of First Amendment freedoms and connects women’s fight for the vote to contemporary issues.


Women, Their Rights, and Nothing Less is a great opportunity to teach about women’s history, collaborate with schools, and make connections with educators, middle schoolers, and high schoolers. You’ll show how relevant AAUW is to teachers and students — all while raising the profile of your branch and setting the stage for long-term relationships. Best of all, you’ll connect with and inspire the next generation of leaders!

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Step 1: Define your goals.

Sharing the Women, Their Rights, and Nothing Less learning module is a great way to reach out to students and teachers. But why stop there? Before you do anything, think about what else you can offer.

Since AAUW history and archives are featured in the learning module, think about offering to come speak to a class about what life was like for women before suffrage, especially for women trying to get a college education.

But also think beyond the classroom. Identify one or two branch resources that you want students and teachers to know about, and plan to use these opportunities in your follow-up. Do you hold an annual event or panel for young people? Host a Women’s History Month contest with a prize? Have interesting collections they could use for research? These are all outstanding ways to continue to engage with students and instructors after they’ve utilized the learning module.

Step 2: Know your product and your audience.

To share this great resource with schools, you first need to know what it offers. Take an hour or so to explore the learning module. You’ll need to register for a free online account to get access. To register, the website will prompt you to say whether you’re a teacher or a student and what school you’re from. You don’t actually have to be associated with a school to get access — all you really need is an e-mail address. Once you’re signed in, you’ll be able to see all the lesson plans, primary documents, activities, and other amazing resources that this module offers. Jot down a few of your favorite parts to mention to schools.

You’ll see that the module has a plethora of instruction to offer, including four lesson plans each on historical connections, media literacy, and civics and citizenship. Each of these topics could take a week or more of instruction time, but it’s certainly also possible for teachers to pick and choose what they want to cover. Be flexible when you’re approaching schools, and figure out what length and timing might work for them, whether that’s just a week of lessons around the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, a few days in a civics class, or a longer unit during Women’s History Month.Before you move on, you also need to know who at the school can make the decision to bring these lessons into the classroom. Contact the head of the school’s social studies department (her or his e-mail address can be found on the school’s website) and introduce yourself and the availability of this free module.

If additional parties need to be involved in the authorization, offer to help the department head navigate the process. This helps get the needed approvals off the teacher’s plate and also helps you build relationships so you can introduce additional ways to collaborate later.

Step 3: Know your jargon.

When you reach out to teachers to offer this module or other opportunities, you’ll want to explain the value of the relationship to them. One way to do this is to use “edu-speak” — that is, discuss how use of the module aligns with national and local learning standards, such as Common Core.

Don’t worry; you don’t have to promise to meet specific learning standards. But it will help if you can discuss generally how participation in your program or event will help students work toward certain goals, including interpreting factual texts, determining point of view, writing to make evidence-based claims, evaluating arguments, and communicating claims to diverse audiences. Women, Their Rights, and Nothing Less was designed to meet core curriculum requirements, and the Newseum provides an outline of the standards that apply to the module.

And if you look at the Common Core standards for English or social studies (see the standards for grades 9–10 and for 11–12 especially), you can see that this module is a perfect fit to teach students valuable writing, reading, and analytical skills. Teachers and administrators can’t help but agree if you know how to talk the talk!

Step 4: Offer carrots.

Part of the online module encourages students to submit projects for inclusion with the site’s interactive content. What can you offer students to encourage them to participate? You don’t have to offer expensive prizes. Instead, brainstorm ways to help students get professional recognition and build their résumés for college.

Free and low-cost options include offering a certificate, publishing participants’ names in your newsletter or the school’s newsletter, writing a brief article on your website or blog, or recognizing students on your branch’s social media. More expensive options include cash prizes or a celebration at your branch or state headquarters — but remember, you can get these funded! Talk to local corporations. If you name a prize after their organization or one of their leaders, a company should be willing to give you a cash sponsorship or offer you deals on hosting an event in its space.

Step 5: Designate a point person.

Meet with your branch leadership to choose an AAUW point person for each school you’re approaching. This person will be responsible for connecting with teachers and discussing their interests, interacting with the teachers and students, and keeping the collaboration moving forward.

When designating a point person, consider her availability: Can she work with students during the school day? Outside of the school day? Also, consider her flexibility: Can this person travel to schools? Communicate via e-mail, Skype, text, or however is appropriate? These tools aren’t absolutely necessary, but they might make connecting with classes and teachers easier.

Step 6: Finalize expectations.

Whether your collaboration involves a one-time school visit or a multi-week research project, you’ll want to ensure along the way that everyone has the same expectations. You can use the five W’s and H — a teacher’s tool! — to check that everyone at your branch and the schools knows who is responsible for what, what the collaboration entails, when and where it will happen, why participation is beneficial, and how you and the teachers and students will work together.

Step 7: Capture the results.

Document, document, document your results! Prepare ahead of time by asking teachers to distribute photo release forms if you’re going into classrooms for any of the lessons. Afterward, ask for copies of student work or testimonials from participants. Finally, spread the good news by writing an article for the school’s newsletter and your newsletter or website. You may also wish to send a press release to your town’s paper or local bloggers (you can use our template). Conclude by sending a thank-you letter to the teacher and her or his principal, and offer to meet for coffee to discuss future opportunities to collaborate.

Have a question or want to share your successes with this PIAB? E-mail us at program@aauw.org.