Problem: Sometimes a group of children doesn't think another kid can do something because of their gender. Gender is whether you are a boy or a girl.
Rationale: Boys and girls can have any job they want to, or do any activities that they want. It does not matter what their gender is. Girls were not allowed to do a lot of things in the past, it is now illegal to stop girls from doing things that boys do. Learning about sexism will influence the students' ability to recognize and combat gender discrimination.
1. Explain to students that today they are going to vote for a class president.
2. Begin by discussing with students the various duties of a class president -- for example, making choices about class parties, leading students out during a fire drill, or assigning students to care for class pets.
3. Next, have students brainstorm a list of characteristics that a president should have -- for example, leadership, ability to make decisions, being likeable, etc.
4. Tell the students that they are going to vote on whether they think a boy or girl should be class president. Ask students not to let their neighbors see their vote. Give each student a slip of paper and a pen or pencil. Have them write a "G" if they think the class president should be a girl, and a "B" if they think it should be a boy. Have them place their paper ballot in a ballot box.
5. Take the slips out and tally the votes.
6. Announce the vote, and debrief with the class:
- How many votes did boy get? How many did girl get?
- Which gender got the most votes? How many more votes?
- Did we choose a boy or girl for our class president?
- Why do you think we made that choice?
- Even though some other countries have had female, or girl leaders, our country has never had a woman president. Do you think that is right or fair? Why?
- In out next presidential election, do you hope a woman runs for president? Why?
- Pretend that you are going to vote for the president of our country. There is a woman and a man who have equal skills. Would you vote for the man or woman? Why?
7. Learning extension: Dr. Rebecca Bigler, professor of psychology at the University of Texas-Austin, studies gender-based bullying. She has found that an important intervention in young children is practicing, out loud, responses to various forms of bullying. Use this activity to help your students recognize and stop gender-biased speech.
- Explain the problem and rationale listed at the top of this activity. Explain that it is not fair to keep people from a job or activity because of their gender -- whether they are a boy or girl.
- Ask students what they should do if someone says you can’t do something just because you are a boy or a girl.
- Explain that students can give the following answer: "Not true! Gender doesn’t limit you!"
- Lead the class in a practice-run:
"Our school is going to elect a president for the Student Council who will lead students in our school – kind of like a mayor leads a city or the president leads our country. A female student wants to be president, but a male student says, 'Only boys can be president.' What do we say to the male student? One, two three GO!"
Have the students say, all together in a confident voice: "Not true! Gender doesn’t limit you! Girls and boys can be president, too!"
- Let students help develop more practice scenarios where they practice simple remarks that counter the discriminatory statements of their peers.