Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gender Norms

I have been trying to think of ways to improve the after school art program I help with. On any given day there can be 10-40 kids whose ages range from 3-15. It is quite difficult to think of something that will be appropriate for and engage all the participants. 

I discussed this with a teacher who is helping out and she suggested we break them up by gender. She would do a project with the girls and I would do a project with the boys. I decided to print outlines of cars and have the boys get to color them however they wanted to. The teacher was going to make cardboard cut outs of purses and have the girls decorate them.

That Friday rolled around and I took the car outlines I had out to the center. The kids set up the tables and chairs as usual and sat down. I started passing out the cars to the boys but then several girls told me they wanted to color cars. I had enough, so I gave a car to every girl as well. The kids sat and excitedly colored in their cars. 

As soon as one of the kids finished he or she would run excitedly over to me and show off their completed cars. It went on like this until the teacher showed up with the supplies to make the purses. The girls immediately ran over to start coloring and decorating their purses.

When some of the boys saw what was going on, they went over and asked to decorate a purse as well. (So much for dividing the group by gender.) Those boys then proceeded to color, decorate, and then proudly show off the purses they had made. 

I laughed to myself a bit and think how bizarre that situation was. I guess it was a mistake to assume that only the boys would want to color cars and only the girls would want to decorate purses. The kids are so excited to do crafts that they really don't care what they are making.