Hidden Figures!

By Linda Bradfield

I teach to make school a “Disneyland” for my students. I have always believed in playful learning as a great way to engage students.

I love that exclamation of “Awww!” when I tell them that the lesson is over.

See how Linda Bradfield at St Mary’s School, Waverley, Johannesburg engages her Grade 8 students in their self-eSTEAM programme (entrepreneurial mindset, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) underpinned by PBL and IBL.

The vision

The vision

With this project-based unit, I wanted every student to be able to identify with the topic regardless of race, religion, or gender and to be inspired by their own work. My priority was to help my students be inspired by women past and present, be motivated to become better and stronger, develop sound research skills, and be able to write their own biography.

Curriculum standards

The vision

At St Mary’s, we have designed our own curriculum statement for our Self-eSTEAM programme to prepare our students for their contribution to the broader global society and towards their own self-fulfillment - with the discovery of self: including each girl’s mission and vision, at the heart of the programme.

Learning journey

The vision

Duration: 2 weeks

This project was designed to be completed during lockdown. Each student worked independently. All stages of the project were shared with the students on Google Classroom. Each morning the students attended a Google Meet to discuss the outline for the day. They were able to communicate with the facilitators via Google Classroom or Whatsapp. Some students requested individual Google Meets to discuss aspects of the project with their facilitators. Some of our students were in different parts of the world due to lockdown.


Teacher Feature

The vision

Student activities

The vision

The Launch

We shared the following videos with our students to inspire them to find out more about women past and present. 

We also invited them to explore the Goodall, Goombe and Google journey on Google Earth https://earth.app.goo.gl/ULmU8N

Introduction of the Essential Question


Following the exploration in the launch, the girls were introduced to the essential question for the unit: 


Can you identify a woman who has made a significant contribution to society and with whom you are able to identify and emulate?


The students were then given numerous resources to assist them in discovering a woman that they could emulate.

Defining the question.

Students developed their own driving question stemming from the essential question of the unit

Research Quest

The students then worked through the Research quest (which I created in Google Sites) to guide them through the various phases of the research task.

To view the research quest site, click HERE


After completing the Define and Locate stages of the research process, students used the Slides presentation below to organise their research.

Final Product

The students then produced and shared their Biographies according to these instructions.

Student feedback

The vision
Student feedback

Teacher feedback

The vision

Here is some of the feedback given on the students’ creations:


I so enjoyed reading your book. The use of language was natural and clearly your own voice came through. I felt how much you respect Emma Watson but I would have liked to see that being more clearly mentioned in each paragraph. You received good reviews for this book. Well done!

Venus you have written this book with passion and love for IU. It made me want to find one of her videos and there they all were for me. Thank you! You wrapped the story up so well in the conclusion but I think you were so engrossed in telling the story you omitted in each paragraph to link your aspirations to her amazing characteristics. A job very well done.

A lovely title and presentation of your work. Your book was a pleasure to read and you were consistent in highlighting her strength of character throughout but you did not refer to how would emulate her characteristics. Otherwise an excellent piece of work and congratulations on the lovely book reviews.

Your title page is so professional looking - excellent! You have written in a wonderfully easy to read manner and it makes your book so authentic. Well done on an excellent conclusion, however I would have liked to see you identify her characteristics at the end of each paragraph and explain how you plan to emulate her. Your artwork is super duper and congratulations on your incredible book reviews.


Lovely driving question and your book is well organised and well presented. I love your link back to the driving question at the end of chapter 1, I only wish you had done that with each chapter. An excellent conclusion and congratulations on the lovely book reviews.

Your book is beautifully presented and written with passion. Well done on ending each paragraph with Emma's strengths and your conclusion, although quite long wraps it all up so well. Huge congratulations on the excellent reviews from your family.

Technology used

The vision

Google Sites 

Google Classroom

Google Slides

Google Earth

Google Meet

Book Creator 

Technology used

What's next?

The vision

This same group of students did their next project on “Dancing with adversity” in which they created a multimedia performance to inspire South Africans to see adversity as an opportunity for growth.

Closing thoughts

The vision

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.”

- Benjamin Franklin


Want to learn more about PBL? Want to learn more about IBL? 

Hop over to LaunchPad and complete our SACE-accredited Power of Project-based Learning and Becoming a Learning Architect courses. 

Or bring us to your school or join us online for our Extreme Project Makeover or Breaking Down the Silos workshops.