Activities & Lessons
On Inauguration Day on January 20, 2021, Kamala Harris became the first woman to hold the office of Vice President of the United States. With this most recent example of a woman shattering the glass ceiling, the U.S. is primed to celebrate Women’s History Month this March.
Teach your students about notable women with these eight Women's History Month activities for elementary school. From free downloadables to easy-to-clean-after ideas, your students can have fun at home or in the classroom while learning about impressive women who helped shape history—or are helping to shape the future.
Women's History Activities for Elementary Classrooms
1. Women of Today Matching Game
History is full of impressive women who helped change the world, and the women of today are no different. From sports to entertainment to politics, contemporary women are making strides in their fields, pushing the boundaries, and accomplishing impressive feats.
With this Women of Today Matching Game, you can introduce your class to women like Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg. You might even learn a few new names yourself!
2. Women of the Civil Rights Timeline
The bulk of the Civil Rights movement spanned two decades, taking place during the 1950s and 1960s. The Supreme Court court case Brown v. Board of Education, the March on Washington, and the Selma to Montgomery March are among the most recognizable events of this era.
For Women’s History Month, allow your students to closely examine this struggle for equal rights and social justice. Using this Civil Rights Timeline, highlight the lesser-known girls and women—such as Linda Brown, Ella Baker, Dorothy Height, and Diane Nash—who played critical roles in the movement. This timeline provides an abridged look into those who helped propel the Civil Rights movement to new heights. Hopefully, this free resource will spark interest in your students and inspire them to conduct further research to get the full story of this crucial period in American history.
After your students had the chance to explore the timeline, challenge them with trivia. Or ask them the following thought-provoking questions:
- How does the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s compare with current movements (such as the Black Lives Matter movement) led by a new generation? What similar challenges do people face today?
- What role did the youth, such as Linda Brown and Ruby Bridges, play in changing the course of American history? How do you think children felt during that time? How can the youth of today become agents of change, not only in their community but also the world?
3. Draw a Self Portrait with Frida Kahlo
Your students might already be familiar with the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Her colorful self-portraits, iconic unibrow, and cameo in the Pixar film Coco may ring a few bells, but Women’s History Month is a great time to delve deeper into the life of the artist with an artistic activity to go along with it! Whether students are learning over Zoom or in the classroom, this activity only requires a paper and something to draw with—be it crayons, markers, or colored pencils.
Start by showing your class some examples of Frida Kahlo’s work:
- Self-Portrait with a Monkey (1938)
- Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940)
- Self-Portrait with a Monkey (1940)
- Me and My Parrot (1941)
- Self-Portrait with Loose Hair (1947)
- Self-Portrait (1948)
Teach them a little more about Kahlo’s life, from her birth in Mexico City to the polio she contracted that affected the rest of her life. Did your students know that she played soccer, swam, and wrestled? How about that she started painting from a hospital bed after a bus accident?
Challenge your students to draw self-portraits of themselves. Their drawings can show them wearing their favorite outfits, or with their pet or favorite toy.
4. Fly Paper Airplanes with Amelia Earhart and Geraldine Mock
Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and the first woman to be presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross from Congress. Although she vanished on a flight around the world, she remains an important symbol for women everywhere wishing to break into male-dominated fields.
In 1964, several women took on the challenge that Earhart was unable to complete—flying around the world. Geraldine Mock, or Jerrie, was the first one to accomplish the task, and was presented with the Federal Aviation Administration's Exception Service Decoration.
Your students can also celebrate these women in aviation by constructing a paper airplane of their very own! All they need for the project is paper and tape. Encourage your students to test out different folds and shapes for their paper airplanes, and see which plane flies the farthest. If you are in a classroom this year, this can be made into a contest!
5. Explore Space with the Women at NASA
Women have held important roles at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) since the early 1920s. From mathematicians to engineers to astronauts, women have been an integral part of NASA’s greatest successes, including landing the first moon landing. Before computers were a staple in every office and home, NASA hired women to be “human computers” and do all calculations by hand.
There are many Women of NASA who deserve recognition, including Katherine Johnson, Sally Ride, and Mae Jemison. Check out the ideas below for some great NASA-themed classroom activities and learn more about the women who helped shape NASA.
Build a Star Projector with Katherine Johnson
- Sharpened pencil
- Toilet paper role
- Scotch tape
- A cell phone flashlight
Katherine Johnson was one of the “human computers” NASA relied upon for calculations. Have your students honor her legacy by building star projectors of their own using basic household supplies!
Have each student save a cardboard toilet paper roll and use it to trace a circle on a piece of paper. On the circle, have each student create a constellation of their own using dots drawn with their pencil. Once they finish their constellation, they should cut it out and tape it to the end of the roll, forming a closed telescope. Then, using a cell phone flashlight, aim the beam through the open end of the roll so that the stars shine onto a wall or ceiling. What constellations did they make?
Launch a Balloon Rocket with Sally Ride and Mae Jemison
- A long piece of string
- A balloon
- A straw
What better way to celebrate American astronauts Sally Ride and Mae Jemison than to build a rocket? You can demonstrate “thrust” for your students with this activity either in front of your class on Zoom or in person.
Start by slipping the straw onto your piece of string. Tie the piece of string taut between two chairs, or anything else that allows the string to form a straight line. Inflate your balloon, but don't tie it off. Tape the inflated balloon to the straw, making sure to pinch it closed so that the air doesn’t escape. Once you are positioned on one end of the string, release the balloon and launch the rocket!
6. Write a Story with Edith Wharton
Edith Wharton wrote non-fiction, poetry, novels, and novellas over the course of her life, despite living during a time when women were discouraged from pursuing anything outside of marriage. Her book, The Age of Innocence (1920), won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1921, making Wharton the first woman to earn the honor. As well as the Pulitzer, Wharton was also the first woman to earn an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Yale University and a full membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Wharton’s The Age of Innocence was based partially on the nostalgia of her childhood in New York. Encourage your elementary students to write their own short story based on one of their own memories. Use the following examples to help them find a memory.
- A vacation that the family took together
- A time you saw a grandparent or grandparents
- Your favorite holiday memory
- When you last saw a friend
- A time you hung out with siblings
- A memory in the classroom
- When you first saw your pet
7. Become an Investigative Journalist with Ida B. Wells-Barnett
In the late 1800s in Mississippi, Ida B. Wells-Barnett began publishing her writing and research in pamphlets and newspapers. A woman of color and a dedicated activist, Wells-Barnett worked to expose the sexism and racism that she witnessed, eventually traveling internationally to spread the word about conditions of people of color in the American South.
Your elementary students can be journalists, too! If they are in the classroom, have them break off into pairs to interview one another. They can use the top of a sheet of paper to take notes, and the bottom half to write down what they’ve learned about their partner. If your class is remote this year, have the students interview you or a family member instead!
8. Conduct a Science Experiment with Marie Curie
Marie Curie, born in Warsaw, Poland in 1867, was a scientist who is well known for her research on radium. Awarded half of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903 and a second Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911, Curie’s work in radioactivity is still considered an important discovery by the scientific community.
While your elementary class may not be equipped to separate radium from radioactive residues, there are still several experiments you can introduce to your students to get them interested in the scientific method. Try out this simple Sugar Yeast Experiment that uses yeast to explore carbon dioxide production by living organisms. You can demonstrate it remotely in front of your camera or the classroom.
Yeast, a living fungal microorganism, comes to life (or becomes active) as it dissolves in warm water. Like other living organisms, yeast needs energy (or food), such as sugar, to become more active. As the yeast eats its food, it releases the gas carbon dioxide and ethanol. The gas builds pressure and fills up the bottle, and eventually, the balloon. Exciting stuff! Experiment with different water temperatures, soda bottle sizes, yeast foods (e.g., honey, candy, salt, or syrup), and amounts of sugar. Have your students determine what variables affect the yeast’s ability to produce the most gas. Check out this cool video for more inspiration!
- A packet of yeast (or fast-acting yeast if you’re working within a shorter period)
- An empty 16-ounce (or smaller) clear plastic soda bottle
- A soda bottle cap
- One teaspoon of granulated sugar
- Warm water (should be between 100-110°F)
- A small balloon
- A funnel
- Measure one cup of warm water and pour it into the empty bottle.
- Using the funnel, add the packet of yeast into the bottle. Then, add one teaspoon of sugar to the bottle.
- Afterward, cap the bottle and shake it up well.
- Remove the cap, stretch out the balloon, and attach it to the bottle’s opening (you may have to blow up the balloon a few times to stretch it out).
- Let the bottle sit in a warm place for about 20 minutes, and the balloon will begin to inflate. Keep the bottle out for several hours so the balloon can inflate even more!
No matter which subject you want to focus on, you can engage your classroom with these women's history activities for elementary students. Learn the names of the women who changed history and who are making history today, and inspire your students to do as poet laureate Amanda Gorman encouraged in her inaugural poem:
"The new dawn blooms as we free itFor there is always light,If only we're brave enough to see itIf only we're brave enough to be it."
Need more ideas and lesson plans to help you celebrate Women’s History Month? Check out more Women’s History Month activities for students or these bulletin board ideas. Learn a bit more about the women who made history by finding their stories or celebrating women authors this month.