Using the '2017 Women's March' curiosity card

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Using this curiosity card to explore women’s suffrage with year 7–8 students, focusing on the fertile question 'Has the right to vote fixed inequality?'



Video title: Using the 'Women's Protest March' curiosity card. Subtitle: With senior primary students to plan inquiry

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Esther Casey
Sylvia Park School
Mt Wellington, Auckland

Esther is sitting in the Sylvia Park School library.


My name's Esther Casey and I'm part of the Inquiry Team and Teacher-Librarian here at Sylvia Park School and we have used the cards with our years 7-8 students to try and get them to think, to start to become aware of the big events that are coming up and to start seeing how they're interested and where they're making connections. So that when we go into our inquiry planning for those events, we'll have a better idea of how to target our 'ignite phase', which is where we try and connect with the students so that they really become passionate and excited about what they're going to be learning about.

So, I wanted a group of year(s) 7 and 8 students to start thinking about women's suffrage and how society has changed, and how it continues to change in the area of women's rights. And so I used the 'women's march' image.


Photo: A group of women during the 2017 women's march in Wellington. 2 women are holding up a placard which reads 'Kate Sheppard sent me.'


I knew that years 7–8s would relate to it because they remember when the women's march was on last year and they're quite vocal about women's issues. They are really passionate about politics around the world and what's going on and they really want to be able to talk about that and debate it and they are full of opinions.

So, it's really cool to give them the opportunity to share what they're, what they're really excited by. So, it's important to them already, so having an image that hooks them in and makes a connection for them to suffrage is really valuable.

So, the first thing I asked them to do was just to look at the image and just describe what they could see. They had the caption there, so what they could learn from the caption and just from the image, and to use their own prior knowledge to put those ideas together.

And, I love that when they looked at it, they noticed some really important things straight away. They knew that the people who were on the march were all different ages. They were all different genders. They were all different races but they could see that there was a cohesive message about what they were there for and they could see that the people in the image were smiling and that they were happy.

And I thought it was really great that they could see activism as a positive thing to do and they could see themselves reflected in the image and they could see that it is something that they could be part of — they could be activists and change-makers like the people in the picture.

So they know a little bit about Kate Sheppard but not a whole lot and we knew that from the way they were talking when they were first sharing their observations. So we gave them some, so the next step was that we gave them some information to read. So, we led them to the page on Te Ara about suffrage and elections and the way they've changed.


Photo: The Te Ara website page — 'Story: Voting rights'.

Back to Esther Casey in the library.


So, that gave them some more context and it gave me the opportunity to lead them more into the area that I wanted them to be having their discussions and where I wanted them to be learning. So, then they became more interested and more curious about the past and how that affects our lives today.

And then the third step was that I gave them the fertile question, and the one we used was: 'Has the right to vote 'fixed' inequality?' And I told them I didn't want them to answer the question. But what I did want to see was lots of debate and I wanted them to be reasoning about why they had their stances. I wanted lots of discussion and I wanted them to bring in as many perspectives as possible. 

So then the last — and that was about 10 minutes, they really really got into some quite passionate debate, it was really awesome to see — then the last thing they had to do was write down 3 questions. So, they weren't answering the question but they had to come up with 3 new questions about, um, that were related to the fertile question or that were related to the debates that they'd been having in their group.

And some of the questions were really great! So, things like: 

  • 'What if women still couldn't vote?' 
  • 'What would it be like?' 
  • 'Why are women told to act ladylike?' 
  • And 'Why does inequality even start?'
  • And another really good one was: 'Why are women underlooked by men?' 

So, having done this half-hour lesson, we now know what our students are connecting with, what they're passionate about this, and how we can use that in our planning for our longer-term inquiry so that we're really sure that it relates to our students and to the issues that they care about.


Video and photo credits:

Curiosity card CC0007

Women's March, Wellington, 2017 by Dylan Owen. All rights reserved.

Neill Atkinson. Voting rights. Retrieved 2018 from

Video ends.