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'Dream Big' and 'STEM subjects are for everyone' were the key messages at our special preview screenings of inspirational new, true-life drama Hidden Figures. The Oscar®-nominated film tells the untold story of the African-American women working for NASA at the time of the Space Race during the 1960s, when discrimination and segregation were still rife. Determined to succeed, these women crossed all lines of gender and race to make invaluable contributions to helping launch US astronaut John Glen into orbit, a key moment in American history.
Screened simultaneously in 23 ODEON cinemas throughout the UK, Hidden Figures was viewed by over 2,500 young people, including many who may not otherwise have had the chance to see it. The film was followed by a lively panel discussion, in which six women, all with successful, STEM-related careers, spoke about their own career paths, and urged young people to seize the opportunities that science and technology can offer.
The panelists - among them a space scientist, a broadcaster, a scientist for EDF Energy and the policy director for the UK Space Agency - emphasised the importance of pursuing your interests, dreaming big and believing in yourself, no matter your gender, race or socio-economic background. Women in particular, the panelists emphasised, should not be afraid to pursue jobs in science, technology, engineering and maths:
1 in 5 people in STEM roles are women. We need to inspire more girls to study science. The future will have more STEM jobs; we need to fill them.Christine Waata, EDF Energy
Here's what some of the teachers and students who attended the event said afterwards:
I thought I didn't like science at school but this film made me feel much more interested and engrossed by it. I think I will enjoy science more at school now.Zahra, 11
Nisha Bijlani, Science Subject Leader at Anson Primary School, London, also sent us some reaction from the event.
"Hidden Figures showed our children that they should follow their passions, their talent and their dreams, regardless of their background. It also taught them a valuable lesson about not underestimating others and judging people on their actions and behaviour rather than their appearances. The film led to interesting discussions amongst the children about equal rights and equal opportunities, and many remarked on how lucky they are to not face such problems today.
As Science Leader at Anson, I will certainly be drawing on this film to encourage all pupils to follow their passions for STEM subjects, regardless of their circumstances or background. During our upcoming Science Fortnight, we will be looking at the film's heroines and other unsung heroes who have made significant contributions to STEM but are relatively unknown due to the colour of their skin, their gender or circumstances."
If you'd like to use film to inspire your students about STEM subjects, we have a number of related resources you can download and great films to watch in class or your film club.
A film guide that looks at Hidden Figures (2016), exploring its key topics and themes through informal discussion.
We look at Hidden Figures, a film that tells the true-story of the African American women who used their resourcefulness & ingenuity to propel NASA into space.
Reading time 7 mins
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