Dorothy Venditto

“Malala said, ‘Let us Remember: One book, one pen, one child and one teacher can change the world.’ I would add, and one movie: Girl Rising.”

  • School: West Patent Elementary School, Bedford Hills, NY (Public)

  • Grade: Fifth

  • Subject: Enrichment

  • Number of Students: 14


What is your goal in bringing Girl Rising into your classroom?
Integrating social justice issues into my lessons has long been a priority. This year, I had the opportunity to create an entire class around a social justice issue that has long been important to me: Gender Equity. When I found the film Girl Rising, I knew it had to be the center focus of this class. In seeking social justice for girls like Wadley and Ruksana, I hoped that the girls and boys in my class would not only be inspired to learn more, but to find ways to help and raise awareness within our school and larger community.

How do you use and teach Girl Rising? 
The class I taught was called, "Gender Equity Champions." This class met once per week for 16 weeks. The students watched the Ruksana and Wadley segments and engaged in meaningful discussions about gender and education, gender and poverty and gender and cultural expectations. They created written responses and reflections and mathematical graphs depicting the difference in opportunities for girls and boys. They led two fundraisers during this time. The first one raised funds by selling 3D printed school mascots that they created on our 3D printer and the second one by selling superhero erasers and pencils. The money raised went to the International Rescue Committee to fund school for three girls for a year and to Girl Rising to continue their noble work. The students had the opportunity to skype with Kayce Jennings which provided great inspiration for their ongoing work. They also did some research on gender bias right within our own community and led discussions with younger students about not setting limits based on gender. Girl Rising inspired them to see the wisdom of the phrase, "Together We Rise."

The detailed lesson plan can be found here.

Which Girl Rising materials did you use?

  • Wadley, Ruksana, and Suma’s chapters from film

  • Book

  • Girl Rising’s Youtube Videos

Additional Resources Used:

Was there a community action component included as part of the Girl Rising unit?

Two fund-raisers:

1.) 3D printed mascot for sale

2.) Superhero pencil and eraser sale.

Proceeds went to International Rescue Committee and Girl Rising. Students talked about the Girl Rising film on their podcast and invited all of fifth grade to participate in a skyping session with Kayce Jennings.

What has been the impact of Girl Rising on your students?
The Girl Rising film was great story telling. The girls and boys in my class were captivated by Wadley and Ruksana and their compelling stories. The film drew the students in so Ruksana's suffering felt real and unjust. Wadley's determination had the students cheering her on. What I wanted my students to see from the film were real faces and names that were attached to tragic statistics. I wanted them to understand that gender inequality was real. As they worked backward from the Girl Rising stories, the students could identify gender inequity right in front of them. The consequences may not have felt nearly as devastating, but the biases that support the inequities were determined to be the same. It was a real privilege to be able to teach a class soley devoted to gender equity with Girl Rising as its center. I had the chance to see my students cry and cheer and devote their lunchtimes and recesses to raising money. I listened to them speak so articulately on topics that many might think were too old for them. I saw their passions take hold and commitments form. I hope to inspire my colleagues to use Girl Rising integrated into their social studies, ELA and math curriculum.

Here are some comments from the students:

The film changed me because I got to see what real injustice looks like and even in the face of injustice, these girls fought and kept moving on.”

“We all think differently about school now. The follow up on Wadley showed us that she needs to get up at 3am to get to school and she celebrates it. Maybe if we couldn't go to school, we wouldn't complains so much.”