Last spring, Sloane Public School, a K-5 school, decided to do a school wide project related to gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. The learning goals were to make the school a safer place and to stop gender based violence.
The program called RESPECT YOURSELF EXPRESS YOURSELF started with the reading of three great picture books (My Princess Boy/Cheryl Kilodavis, 10 000 Dresses/Marcus Ewert , Backwards Day/ S. Bear Bergman ) and follow up discussions. Direct teaching was done around stereotyping and the harmful effects of discrimination, exclusion and bullying.
All students and staff became fashion designers and designed two-dimensional garments using different materials. A select group of students got to be part of a design house that created and made three-dimensional garments. Community agency Arts For Children and Youth worked with students and taught them sewing and dance skills. A fashion show was held on May 17th, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, and featured the students’ creations.
Reflections from staff, students and community proved that attitudes have changed and there is now a greater acceptance of diversity in the school.
“Respect Yourself Express Yourself engaged the entire Sloane community in looking at acceptance and tolerance of others, including those who may not love whom we expect them to love or dress like we expect them to dress. Participants’ behaviors and perspectives changed, not because they were told they had to but because they understood and it all made sense to them,” said Ms. Dewar, a grade one teacher.
The fashion show also raised money for Camp Oochigeas, a special place that provides magical experiences for children with cancer.