Undaunted Courage: Amelia Earhart
It’s been 75 years since renowned pilot Amelia Earhart mysteriously disappeared over the Pacific Ocean, and her disappearance and ultimate fate continues to fascinate the public to this day. At this writing, an expedition to locate debris from Earhart’s plane is wrapping up near the island of Nikumaroro in the western Pacific. The expedition was prompted by new analysis of photographs of the area from 1937 that appear to show airplane landing gear partially submerged in the water.
The recovery of wreckage from Earhart’s plane could answer questions that have plagued historians for years: what ultimately happened to Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan? Did they perish in a crash, or did they land on a deserted island due to low fuel, and survive for a time on their own? Regardless of the outcome, Earhart’s legacy is that of a courageous woman who followed her dreams rather than succumb to society’s expectations of what a woman should be in the 1930s.
In high school, Amelia Earhart kept a scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings of women who had unconventional careers for the time. Encouraged by their successes, Earhart vowed to follow her dreams and achieve her goal of being a pilot. Always a trailblazer, Earhart was also vocal in her support for women’s rights, and inspired countless people – female and male – to persevere in their efforts to achieve their own dreams. She demonstrated strong leadership skills at a time when it was more socially acceptable for women to be passive, and consistently set goals for herself that were demanding.
A lesson or unit on Amelia Earhart offers many cross-curricular opportunities. Aside from the historical events of her life, students can examine Earhart’s poetry, and how her unconventional career shaped her beliefs and her life. Earhart’s flights lend themselves to lessons in geography, math (calculate the miles covered in the various legs of her journeys, or how her proposed equatorial flight differed from other round-the-world flights), physics (speed, force, and motion of various types of planes, and distances covered under various weather conditions), and – obviously – social studies. Earhart’s story is a good one to use for interjecting some women’s history into the curriculum, as well for lessons on perseverance, courage, goal-setting, and believing in yourself. One of my goals in writing these columns is to not only introduce you to possible new content and spark some new ideas, but to also encourage you to apply topics that may be outside your normal purview to your existing subject area. This week I’ve highlighted three Gateway resources on Amelia Earhart for various grade levels. As always, I’ll be featuring many additional lessons and activities throughout the week on our Gateway Twitter and Facebook pages, so please give them a look.
Amelia Earhart and Transportation
Subjects: Geometry, Physical Science, US History
In this lesson, students learn about the life of Amelia Earhart, the first woman to make a solo flight across the Atlantic. The students will describe various types of transportation (including their benefits and drawbacks), apply the concepts of force and motion to airplane flight, and understand symmetry through creating a paper airplane. I love the cross-curricular nature of this lesson, and how concepts that can be abstract to young kids are given a real-world context. This lesson is offered by the School District of Palm Beach County in Florida.
The Flight of Amelia Earhart - Teacher's Guide
Subjects: Journalism, US History, Technology
This guide provides a unique opportunity for students to study the enduring legacy of an American hero. An interactive timeline combines important events from Earhart’s life with major world events of the time to provide a historical context for young readers. The story of Sylvia Barter, a female trailblazer and contemporary of Amelia's, informs students further on the challenges women faced in the early part of the twentieth century. Finally, a news writing activity allows students to demonstrate their grasp of the historical content. This guide also offers lots of cross-curricular extensions. This guide was produced by Scholastic Inc, a leading children’s publishing, education, and media company.
Amelia Earhart: Aviation Pioneer
Subjects: US History, Technology & Civilization
The goals of this lesson plan sequence is to familiarize students with the social practices and technological advancements of the 1920s and 1930s, to encourage students to relate what they have learned from these contexts to their modern life, and to explore the events of Amelia Earhart's life. Students will also examine how Earhart's feelings about flying throughout her aviation career influenced her poetry, and write their own poetry on an exciting and risky experience in their lives. This lesson was produced by Idaho Public Television and the National Teacher Training Institute, an effort by public TV to help teachers harness the power of technology and use it as a tool to teach more effectively.