In My Class Today

That time I had to change my lesson in 15 minutes

So I’m taking a break between mechanics and waves/color/sound in regular physics to run the underrep curriculum. This week was mostly setting the stage and one of the projects students had was to research a black scientist, create a poster and write a bio. FIRST of all, some of the posters WERE AMAZING (YES, those are STUDENT CREATED posters)

One of my students decided to research Dorothy Vaughan, the first black female supervisor for NASA. Unfortunately she kept finding photos of other computers labeled with her name. One picture, in particular had us puzzled because she didn’t quite fit anyone’s visual. I commented on how this experience in and of itself made for an interesting statement on underrepresentation and marginalization.

So today I see the NASA announcement that one of the mountains on the moon is to be named after Melba Mouton. The photo? The same one we were puzzling over! I was eager to share this with my student and I started doing a google image search for Dorothy Vaughn, specifically looking for this photo of Melba.

And WHO has it mislabeled? None other than UC Berkeley!

So I scrapped the lesson for today and we wrote. First I had the student share her story with the picture situation and then I shared the news about the moon. I gave students a framework to then write a letter to the curators of the exhibit at Berkeley, asking them to put into consideration the bigger picture of our studies from the past week.

They did this on the big post it paper and then we had a gallery walk and students crafted a final version of their group letter.

I then went through submissions and put together a final letter of their writing to send off to the two individuals listed on the exhibit.

Of course my students’ first question “will they even do anything” stung a bit because I know that comes from a place of not being heard over and over again.

But they DID!

I promptly received an email back from Berkeley that they would correct the attribution and include Melba! I am SO excited to share with my students Tuesday!


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