Return to Headlines

Women's Studies class helps students learn, teach

Taylor Butenhoff and Samantha Cruz speak about Selena Gomez and Taylor SwiftFor nearly a dozen years, students in Jennifer Huber’s Women’s Studies class have had a chance to step out from behind their desks and teach younger students at Mill Road Elementary School about the impact women have had throughout America’s history. 
The semester-long class is designed to highlight the role of women throughout history for high school students, but through the final research paper and presentation, it does much more. 
Students develop their own lessons including a PowerPoint presentation and activities – modifying the content so that it is age-appropriate. For years, the Red Hook High School students presented only to fifth grade classes. This year, Huber expanded it to third grade and her 16 students presented to a total of eight classrooms. 
Most of Huber’s students are seniors. 
“This chapter of their lives is closing out, so this is not only an academic experience, but a social-emotional learning experience and a way for them to give back to their school,” Huber said, adding that she was impressed by how deeply students dive into their presentations. 
“What blew me away is that their presentations on Beyonce and Lady Gaga (for example), really dove into not just the songs they wrote but their work on gender equality, justice.” 
Students often express a bit of hesitation before giving their presentations but are surprised at the reception they receive. 
“I was overjoyed with the amount they were engaged and interacting with me,” wrote Kennedy Pethic, whose presentation was about singer Billie Eilish. “They were adding in comments during my presentation which I wasn’t expecting. They were more engaged with the topics not specifically about music than I thought they’d be.” 
Lily George researched Marilyn Monroe for her project, saying that having to present to the Mill Road students forced her to strive for greater understanding of Monroe’s legacy. 
“I really, really enjoyed interacting with the kids and teaching them but also just being in that environment again. It was very refreshing and put a lot into perspective for me about my attitude and outlook on life, as they were all very positive and engaged,” George wrote in her evaluation. 
For Lauretta Hale, the presentation confirmed her career choice. “I was able to learn a lot about what goes into teaching one single lesson. As an aspiring teacher, I found the project to be not only practical, but a great way to confirm that I have chosen the right career path for me,” Hale said. 
Hale, who presented on Michelle Obama, also found the younger students were very engaged. 
“I was also thrilled that the kids answered some of my more challenging questions such as ‘Who do you advocate for?’ and ‘Who inspires you in your own life?’ Their ability to have conversations in the context of talking about advocacy and world issues was so amazing,” she wrote. 
Other women presented on this year included Amanda Gorman, Taylor Swift and Gloria Steinem. 
Huber said the younger students were very excited about the presentations.  
“One said, ‘Can I grade you? I want to give you an A+!” 
Some of her students told her it was easier to present to the younger students than it was to present to their own peers. 
“This serves as a reminder that the educational process is inspiring,” Huber said, adding, “I hope this continues. It is an overall, positive, humbling experience.”