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Celebrating International Women's Day in Canada [Classroom Resources]

Celebrating International Women's Day in Canada [Classroom Resources] featured image

Across the globe, for over a century, International Women’s Day has been dedicated to honouring the achievements of women throughout history. Held on March 8th each year, it is typically a day where people from all different backgrounds and cultures band together to fight for gender parity and women's rights. To celebrate the women who have contributed to Canada’s history and encouraged gender equality in our country, we have put together a list of resources to integrate into your classroom lessons!

From examining gender equality to acknowledging gender stereotypes, here are resources to help teachers discuss International Women's Day in Canada with their students.


The History of International Women’s Day

International Women's Day was first honoured on March 19 in 1911 when more than one million people attended rallies campaigning for women's rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and to end discrimination. The celebratory date then later permanently changed to March 8th to commemorate major historical events occurring around the world.


Examining Gender Inequality

Over time, the world has witnessed a significant change in society's thoughts about women's equality and emancipation. Unfortunately, Canadian women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, are still not equally represented in business or politics, and globally, women's education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men. Check out this Ted Talk, Maclean’s interview and animated clip demonstrating the inequalities women face and discuss the importance of these short videos with your class.


Learning the Terminology


Learning the vast number of terms related to the women’s rights movement can be difficult and overwhelming at times. Introduce some of these terms to your class to allow students to better understand the movement, have meaningful conversations, make stronger arguments and propel the agenda forward.

Activity Idea: After providing your students with an initial background of the women’s rights movement, introduce these short, interactive classroom activities where students will use problem solving, creativity, writing and multi-media skills to think critically about equality.


Acknowledging Gender Stereotypes

You may not realize it, but gender role socialization begins at birth and continues throughout the course of one’s life. Society is quick to outfit male infants in blue and girls in pink, and as we grow further stereotypes are impressed upon us from influences such as movies, TV shows, advertisements, online videos, games, and more. These media messages change our students’ career aspirations, their sense of self, how they view relationships, and how they value themselves and others.

Activity Idea: Ask your students to watch the film “The Hunger Games” available on Netflix (rated PG13) and afterwards have them complete this Hunger Games themed gender empowerment lesson where students will not only gain an understanding of the social constructs of gender and its influence but also how popular culture impacts the notion of masculinity and femininity.


Women in Canadian History

Graphic Illustration Celebrating Women In Canadian History

From the long journey for women’s suffrage towards equality of rights and opportunities for all, women have and continue to blaze a trail to create a better, more equal world for everyone. Take a look at this timeline to discover notable events in Canadian women’s history and learn more about the powerful women who created change.

Activity Idea: Use this substantive lesson plan and activity guide developed by Historica Canada to unpack some of the major events with your students included in the above timeline. Each concept and activity will allow students to analyze the past in order to understand what happened and what those events mean.


Brightspark Partners

Queen of the hurricaines

Did you know that many of our museum partners highlight Canadian women’s contributions to our history in their exhibitions – many of which can now be accessed virtually? Our favourites include the Canadian Aviation & Space Museum’s exhibit on Elsie MacGill (the world’s first female chief aeronautical engineer) and the Museum of History’s exhibit on the Women of New France. Ask your students to wander through these exhibits and share what they learned!


Show your Support with #ChoosetoChallenge and #IWD2021

This year’s official International Women’s Day theme is #ChooseToChallenge. It’s a call-to-action to challenge the status quo by raising awareness against bias, celebrating women’s achievements, and taking action for equality. A simple, yet impactful way to celebrate this year, is to show commitment to challenging inequality by taking part in the #ChooseToChallenge social media campaign. If students wish, have them take a photo of themselves raising their hand high and share it on their preferred social media platform(s) using #ChooseToChallenge and #IWD2021.

Activity Idea: Address a gender equality issue by creating a public service announcement campaign. Ask students to brainstorm common gender stereotypes and suggest ideas for overcoming them, or to identify how the school can become more inclusive for people of all genders. Students can draft scripts to read over the school PA system and create visuals, such as posters and digital media, to promote their messaging, either in print or online.


Test your Knowledge with a Kahoot!

After participating in the above activities, challenge your class to a Kahoot! game to reinforce the key facts of International Women’s Day and gender equality within Canada.

  • Go to Kahoot.com
  • Click "login" or "create account" on the top right
  • Once logged in, go to the discover tab next to the home button
  • In the search field, enter “Brightspark: International Women's Day in Canada
  • Click the “Brightspark: International Women's Day in Canada” Kahoot
  • Hit “play” and select either Teach (live game where everyone plays at the same time) or Assign (students play at their own pace with a deadline attached to it)
  • Send the link and pin to your students (students do not need an account to play)


If you are interested in learning more about women’s rights in Canada’s history, consider taking your class on a trip to Ottawa to provide students with a more immersive experience.