March 17th, 2015 – written by STEM Facilitator, Bori Kim
It was another TrueChild day at Ariel! TrueChild is one of PE’s partnerships that offers various programs and lessons about gender and gender norms with STEM related professions for young teenage students (for more information please click here: http://www.truechild.org/). These lessons help young girls, especially middle-aged girls, to understand what gender is and overcome gender stereotypes that have been persisted in our society. Unlearning and relearning the concept of gender really encourage the girls to know their true selves and find path in STEM fields.
On this particular Tuesday, Ariel girls did an activity to find where they are at this present time, March 17, 2015 and where they would like to be in 10 years, March 17, 2025. Before the girls came in, I had four columns made on a white board, with a date in the center. A left top column says, “Write 3 nouns or objects that represent who you are and explain why.” Next one is “Write 3 adjectives that describe who you are.” Then, “Write 3 places; any of your favorite places or places you have a special memory.” Last column says, “Write 3 colors that describes who you are.”
The girls had 15 minutes to think and respond to these in their journals. The girls were very focused on writing these out and knowing who they are. I asked three volunteers to share their present-time stories (wish we had more time so we could hear everyone’s). Selena, who wants to be a famous MBA basketball player, shared her three adjectives. Smart. Strong. Athletic. She said, “I have a good grade. I live to work out a lot to get stronger. I love watching and playing sports, trying new things.” Everyone gave her a round of applause. Selena had a very solid plan and vision of what she wants to be.
“Everyone did a fantastic job! Let me ask this. We just did who we are as of March 17, 2015, but what do you think who you are ten years later, March 17, 2025?” I asked the girls. The girls were very excited (more than excited) to share what they will be doing or who they will be. “I will be a famous actress.” “I will make a lot of money so I will be interviewed on TV.”
“Okay girls. Let’s calm down a bit. I have one more question for you. What do you think our society will be like in 10 years?” I asked again. “You don’t have to answer this right now, but get into your group and create a collage of what you think our society will be like in 10 years together.” The girls were split into two groups and started to create a collage on a big orange paper. I walked around to see how the girls would respond to this. I saw a 2025 food stamp with a feast table and asked this girl what this table means. She said, “My mom is working really hard every day, but we never get a chance to have good food. This is a food stamp that we will have in 2025.” “Very nice! I like it.” I responded and hugged her so tight.
We didn’t have enough time to finish up the collage. This will be continued in our next TrueChild lesson. I was very surprised that these girls are not babies anymore though I still think they are my babies. They are well-aware of what is going on in their own lives and around them. They want to make a difference. I am so glad that TrueChild lessons help them shape their lives by their decisions—not by what society tells them to be.
On January 27th, the girls at Ariel Community Academy had an opportunity to talk about what it means to them to be a girl. TrueChild, which Project Exploration often works with, is an organization that focuses on the presence of gender norms in society and how these roles can affect young girls. The girls got the opportunity to talk about what they thought a gender role was. With one side of the board for boys and one side of the board for girls, the girls of Ariel went up to the board and wrote down various words and ideas that came to mind when they heard the word “girl” or “boy”. The girls had some really great thoughts, and the discussion got them thinking about how societal norms shape their everyday life. One of the new girls, Britney, mentioned that she thought the media often told girls to be submissive and underachieving, whereas boys are persuaded to be powerful and successful. Furthermore, Kiara said that boys are allowed to play sports and be rough but girls are expected to be pretty and delicate. I don’t think any of the girls are okay with that sentiment! Finally, the girls talked about how the science field is mostly dominated by males, and that’s probably because of stereotypes that say that boys are smarter than girls. Well, all I can say is I have a pretty smart group of girls on my hands :).
The physical activity of the day was Zip Zap Zop. All the girls all ready knew the game and so they were much better at it than I am. They even told me that I played with the wrong rules! I learn something new from them everyday.
Everyone was refreshed with a well-spent spring break. It has been such a joy to get together and share our special Sisterhood. For the following sessions after spring break, the girls were about to explore who they are (who I am) as being a girl through TrueChild Workshops. This workshop is designed for two sessions, 70-90 minute each, as a pilot program from TrueChild: http://www.truechild.org. We were to discuss feminine gender norms and science. Wow, it was a fascinating topic and even was a blast in our class! A week before spring break, I threw out a question in a very casual way: “Can you think of anything common between women/girls and science?” I wanted my girls to prepare for this workshop by putting a thinking cap, making connecting between science and themselves. Their responses were very unique and interesting. “I can see biological cycle. Animals and plants have a biological cycle as women do. We become pregnant.” “I can think of breast cancer. It’s medical and women.” I loved hearing their ideas of “women and science” that I have never thought of before. I mean, I have been aware of natural, biological cycle, but it was such an A-ha moment 🙂
Activity I: “Who Am I?” “What Would I Like To Do With My Life?”
Before we got into our first activity, I had the girls share their experience of being ignored or underestimated because they are girls. Aubriana had a story that she had been ignored although she was good at basketball. Last year, the school did not have a girl’s basketball team. She and her friends wanted to join in a boy’s basketball team to play together, but the boys in the team did not want them to be even to play a basketball because they are girls. Yikes! They are now in the girls’ basketball team, but I wanted to ask them why the boys would not want them to join in playing basketball. T’meyah said, “I think if girls are involved, they the boys feel less manly.” Great point! I asked them again, “Is basketball or any kind of sports only for boys? The girls were yelling at me, “No!” “It’s like this. Basketball makes boys become more masculine so if we take it then they feel like losers,” responded Aubriana.
This sharing could fill the whole 90-minute class unless we stop at some point. So, I had them calm down first by putting a thinking cap: “How would you describe yourself?” Then we had a quiet moment to write or draw “myself”—who I am as a girl. Once they were all finished, I had volunteers to share. Micah, one of the alumni students, shared her poem. Such a beautiful poem with a line that says, Less than perfect, but I love it. I could hear how confident she is to present herself as she is. T’meyah described herself as a tree with a full of leaves on it. Aubriana drew a big heart in the center and little hearts from this big heart. The heart represents her love for herself and inside the hearts, she wrote who she is: “I am tall, think, brown skinned and beautiful. I am a girl who focuses on future.” Wow, I was very proud of my girls being confident in themselves as they are. Yes, some people around us might underestimate or even ignore us just because we are girls, but all that matters is Confidence. Not the way others think of ourselves, but how we see ourselves.
For the rest of the class, I distributed women’s magazines to look through if the girls can find something to describe their lives in 10 years. On the original activity guide it says “life in 5 years,” but I have modified this a little bit since my girls are 13 through 15. If we added only 5 years, that would not be much difference. I wanted them think aloud a bigger picture of their lives in 10 years. I let the girls create a collage of “Life in Ten Years.” The girls had so much fun expressing their lives through the collage! My girls were very excited to see what they would like to be and to do in 10 years as the collage were being completed. One girl still struggled; she has never thought of what she would like to be or study in college. “Sweetie, what kind of jobs or work would you like to do?” I asked. “I don’t know, but something that makes a lot of money,” said Amoriana. “Okay, let’s look through the magazines if you can find anyone or anything that makes a lot of money.” We grabbed a few magazines and looked through together. Amoriana was looking at the expensive shoes so I asked, “Would you be interested in being a shoe designer? See these shoes are pretty.” Pointing another shoe pairs, “I like that one better. Would they make a lot of money?” she asked. “Yes, they do. Do you see how expensive these shoes are,” with my eyes rolling, I responded. On the magazine, these shoes were like over $900.00-$1,300.00 a pair. Amoriana was sorting through these photographs of shoes like a shoe designer.
We had 10 minutes left towards the end, so I assigned them a two-minute mini presentation so that everyone could have a voice as they shared their collages. “I want to get married, have a baby, and a pet. I like red shoes I will have a drink with my husband. Since it is after 10 years, it is appropriate, Ms. Kim,” said Faith. I see Faith does really want to have her own family. Then it was T’meyah’s turn, “I love make-ups, but I’m not sure if I want to be a make-up artist. Here are dresses, bags, and a phone. I will definitely be dating.” “Would you be getting married?” I asked. “Probably not. It is still early for me,” she smiled. Ms. Carmichael, a science teacher at Perspectives Joslin, joined our conversation “getting married in 20’s or not.” “It’s okay to get married in 20’s, but make sure you are still an independent women before and after you get married.” Here was our word, Independence. Since it was past 5:30pm, we had to leave this for next week.