Katherine Johnson Multimedia Resources and Lesson Plan for Teachers

Katherine Johnson, born August 26, 1918, was an African American mathematician who worked as an aerospace technologist for NASA and was the first woman in her division to have her name on a report. In 1962, astronaut John Glenn wouldn't begin his orbit around the moon without Johnson first checking all computer calculations by hand: "If she says they're good, then I'm ready to go." 

Katherine Johnson Lesson Plan
Credit: MY. HERO

Students watch the following film Katherine Johnson: The Human Computer and discuss why Katherine Johnson is an inspirational American hero. 

Katherine Johnson: The Human Computer

Jasmine Blossom Martoglio | Batchelor Middle School
This is a documentary about Katherine Johnson and why she is an American hero.

Students read the following story about Katherine Johnson and consider the discussion questions.

This story is available in text and audio; great for ESL students.

Katherine Johnson

By: Kyra from Ankara, Turkey

Her story was hidden for decades: Katherine Johnson plotted multiple flight courses for NASA, including the Apollo 11 spacecraft, the first spaceship to reach the moon.

Katherine Johnson is an inspirational hero to these Del Norte High School students. Students read these featured essays and consider the discussion questions.

Katherine Johnson

By: Sarika Pasumarthy

"I am aspiring to go into a career in computer science."

Katherine Johnson

By: Elijah Naval

"Katherine Johnson has inspired me to become a physicist at NASA."

Katherine Johnson: Extraordinary Mathematician and Human Being

By: Ishita Vasishtha

"Because of Johnson, I can now confidently do what I want with my life."

Katherine Johnson

By: Ridhima Inukurti

"It is my dream and goal to become an astronautical engineer for NASA."

Discussion Questions

1. Katherine Johnson overcame racial and gender barriers during her life and career. Do you know anyone who has overcome barriers based on race or gender? Share his or her story with MY HERO. 

2. Students at Del Norte High School wrote about how Katherine Johnson has inspired them. Who inspires you? Share the story with MY HERO.

Margot Lee Shetterly: Shining a Light on Hidden Figures

By: Shannon Luders-Manuel
Margot Lee Shetterly is the author of "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race."

Students analyze this portrait of Katherine Johnson. Notice how the artist included images in the background and a quote.  

Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson is an African American physicist and mathematician who made contributions to the United States' aeronautics and space programs with the early application of digital electronic computers at NASA.

Who is your science hero? Consider creating an original piece of art that represents your hero and submit your art to MY HERO.

Learning Outcomes 

Students will identify individuals who inspire them in their own lives. Students will develop critical thinking skills as they identify people who have overcome racial and gender barriers. Students are encouraged to create an original piece of art honoring their science hero. 

My Hero suggested viewing: Trailer for Hidden Figures (2016).

"HIDDEN FIGURES is the untold story of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe)—brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation’s confidence, turned around the Space Race, and galvanized the world.  The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big."



Laura Nietzer

The Katherine Johnson lesson plan was created by MY HERO Teacher and Learning Circle Director Laura Nietzer.

Learn about a New Hero Every Day of the Year: Use the MY HERO Calendar in the Classroom

MY HERO's Teachers Calendar Features Lesson Plans and Multimedia Resources

Teachers Calendar
Credit: MY HERO

Learn about a New Hero Every Day of the Year: Use the MY HERO Calendar in the Classroom

Related Links

Students can share their Hero Essays, Films and Art through our Create Program

Organizer created on 7/15/2019 2:10:43 PM by Laura Nietzer

Last edited 7/2/2024 4:01:57 PM by Laura Nietzer