Students at Heineman Middle School recently Skyped with journalist Jenna Busch, known throughout science fiction circles as a top blogger and host of a weekly show alongside comic book legend Stan Lee.
Busch, who has contributed to media outlets including the Huffington Post, NPR, Zap2It, AOL, and others, has been a leading voice for increased recognition of female fans and contributors in the science fiction industry. She founded the Legion of Leia campaign last year to advance that goal.
An article she wrote earlier this year explored how Hollywood’s representation of women contributes to a negative stereotype and, ultimately, a lack of women entering STEM fields.
The students read and discussed the article in preparation for the Skype chat, part of an ongoing activity in which students write a response to a weekly journal prompt that addresses a current issue or event in technology.
“There are a lot of reasons we see fewer girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers. It’s not encouraged in schools, math and science toys are marketed to boys, not girls,” Busch wrote. “One way Hollywood can help is to give us more examples of women with jobs and interests in STEM.”
Students asked insightful questions about feminism, the history and motivation behind Hollywood’s depictions of women, and gender disparities in the entertainment and other industries.
“It was a great activity for the students. We had the chance to hear from someone the students recognized from their readings in class and that made the message all that much more important,” said Michael Espinos, the tech lab instructor at Heineman who arranged the activity. “The students began lining up to answer questions and asked for more time as we neared the end of the talk. It was great to see them engaged in discussion and asking great questions.”
Espinos said students were excited not just to talk with a super-cool celebrity, but also to engage in a high-level conversation about current issues.
“Their journal responses were some of the best I received all year, and their level of engagement during the activity was ebullient,” Espinos said. “I was impressed by how fast they could synthesize the information and develop appropriate questions to ask in response. The entire activity was a success.”
Busch published an article and video from the chat on the Legion of Leia website.