International Women’s Day celebrations in schools are the perfect opportunity to commemorate the achievements of women in society in your local area and within your school. The day itself has been marked and celebrated since the early 1900s but continues to be a significant day internationally to celebrate women, raise awareness about women’s equality and fundraise for female-focused charities.
There are lots of ways of encouraging children to celebrate women and to inspire them to consider women’s equality whilst being a fun, engaging and informative day for all. Instead of stressing about what to do, be inspired by our list of fun and easy activities to celebrate International Women’s Day in school.
What is this year’s slogan for women’s day?
Each year, International Women’s Day organisers decide on a theme/slogan for the year. 2021’s slogan is ‘Choose to Challenge’.
“A challenged world is an alert world. And from challenge comes change. So let’s all #ChoosetoChallenge.” (internationalwomensday.com)
Activities to do in school on International Women’s Day
1. Challenge gender stereotypes
This can be a tricky subject to cover with children, but it doesn’t have to be. With the help of International Women’s Day’s comic resource, you can have constructive conversations about gender stereotypes.
As well as the comic resource, the IWD site also has an activity that helps children to challenge their own stereotyping when it comes to ‘jobs for men’ and ‘jobs for women’. In fact, InternationalWomensDay.com is a treasure trove of resources that can be utilised with a wide range of children’s ages and abilities. Make sure to check out their teacher’s resources.
2. Choose a female role model
A mum? A librarian? A YouTuber? A political leader? Looking at role models is a fantastic way to explore the strength in others as well as reflect on qualities pupils admire in others. It might also be a good way to encourage self-esteem by comparing similar qualities between children and their role models.
3. Hold an International Women’s Day assembly
Bringing the whole school community together to celebrate International Women’s Day sets the tone for the kind of community you want to create for the young people of your school. A whole-school assembly that helps children explore women’s equality on International Women’s Day is a great way to do this.
Oxfam has put together a fantastic PowerPoint that assists with exactly this. Children are provided with statistics and facts to introduce gender equality issues, and it’s suitable for pupils aged 9–14.
4. Explore not-so-famous women from history
Have you or your pupils heard of Andrée de Jongh who saved hundreds of allied airmen from the Nazis? Or Susan Kare who helped Steve Jobs make the Mac more user-friendly?
There are many unspoken heroines from history that we commonly miss covering in history lessons. Split your pupils into small groups and provide each with resources that they can use to investigate an unsung woman from history. Each group can then present back to the class the woman they have studied.
This is also a great opportunity to look into the autobiography genre, too!
5. Study the biography of an inspiring woman
Whilst this activity might span more than single day, it will be well-worth your time. One of the most brilliantly written biographies is the one written by and about Malala Yousafzai.
She covers topics such as education and the freedoms it allows, Islam and the Taliban; there’s so much for you and your class to get your teeth stuck into.
If you’re stuck for time, perhaps choose an extract to pull apart as part of your International Women’s Day literacy lesson.
6. The role of women during WW2
There is so much to research and explore when it comes to what women contributed towards the war effort. You could take a look at The Women’s Voluntary Service, the home front, the Wrens at Bletchley Park and women fighter pilots.
It can come as quite a surprise that women could have been code-breakers or fighter pilots, which is perhaps why it’s so important to ensure children appreciate the role of women during the war.
7. Look at the history of International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day has been celebrated every year since the early 1900s, first coming to the UK in 1910. Historically, women had been denied the ability to vote, to work and had very little say over their lives in general. A group of women who called themselves the Women’s Social and Political Union (or suffragettes as they are more commonly known) campaigned for change.
8. Study famous speeches by women
Doing an analysis of a famous speech is always great fun. Filled to the brim with rhetorical devices that your children can magpie from for their own writing, speeches are some of the most carefully crafted pieces of writing. International Women’s Day is a great day to pick out a speech written and performed by a woman.
Try one of these:
- Jane Goodall’s ‘What separates us from the apes?’
- Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Peace Prize Speech
- Elizabeth I’s ‘Speech to the Troops at Tilbury’
9. Research and explore current equalities faced by women today
Gender equality is a huge topic to cover with young children. But it exists, and it’s good to make children aware; they are the future generation, capable of making change! Choose a topic within gender equality and focus on that.
For example, you may look at the number of women in science, specifically those who have become astronauts. You can then do a research project based on Mae Jemison, the first black woman to travel into space in 1992.
10. Creative writing inspired by International Women’s Day
What better way to reflect on women’s rights and their achievements than to create pieces of creative writing on the topic? Use one of the below International Women’s Day writing prompts to get your pupils going.
- Write an acrostic poem using any of the following words: women, equality, suffragette.
- What are some of the ways you can show the women in your life respect? Explain your answer.
- In today’s world, do you think women have equal rights to men? Explain your answer.
- What activities are commonly seen as ‘just for boys’ or just for girls’? Have you ever had a go at one of these? What did it feel like?
- How do you think equality could help both men and women?
- Write a letter to a famous woman you respect congratulating her on her success. Write about how her work has inspired you.
11. Celebrate a local heroine
This might take a bit of research but providing children a local context for a woman to celebrate could help to inspire them even further. Look for local female entrepreneurs, business owners, councillors even celebrities.
Once you have chosen your local heroine, you could also attempt to contact them via Twitter with questions from the children. You might even be able to organise a video call with your local heroine – very inspiring!
12. International Women’s Day symbol craft
We’ve found this fantastic craft from Girl Guiding; create a superhero tool belt. Perfect for raising the confidence levels of pupils of all genders, this task celebrates those characteristics that make children feel confident.
13. Books for International Women’s Day
Choose a book to read with your class that is either written by a woman or features a strong female role model as the protagonist.
There are also lots of non-fiction, children’s books that feature famous women through history. This list from Kitchen Counter Chronicles is a great starting point.