Breaking down systems of oppression, high school edition
May 11, 2016 8:36 AM   Subscribe

I often have the opportunity to talk about sexism, gender issues, racism and other forms of oppression with groups of high school students while working as an outdoor educator. So cool! I've got a diversity handbook with activities, but they're starting to feel a bit dated. What are the best resources for activities, conversation starters and engaging ways to illustrate big, complicated ideas?

Examples of things that I've done in the past include having students draw a picture of a scientist and picking apart the stereotypes embedded in that idea. Making a list of trigger words. Sharing via a, "If you really knew me, you'd know ... " prompt. Having students share through an "identity tree". These are good, but at this point I'm running into students who have done these activities at their school and are pretty over it. I'd love to see newer resources, especially any that could address issues like emotional labor, healthy expression of anger in young women, talking about consent with young men, etc. You know, like Metafilter, but with guided activities that engage middle and high school students.

I'd also appreciate links to forums if there isn't one handy resource site.

posted by ajarbaday to Education (3 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Apologies up front, I don't have the specific resources you asked for but a related topic suggestion/request?

I was fortunate to grow up in an area with an awesome outdoor education facility and then to attend a college with a similar facility/course. It was a rite of passage in my school district that all 6th-graders did a day-long field trip there, and they also offered summer camp sessions and private group outings.

What I've always seen with these activities, though, is that no matter what we did during the outdoor education everything went back exactly the way it was when we went back to "the real world" day-to-day environment of school. Our normal social groups got mixed around during the outdoor education and we did lots of activities and had discussions about including and valuing everyone, but when we went back to school the cool kids still ruled and the nerds drooled and nothing changed.

I'm willing to bet the students are over it because yeah yeah, they run through the activities and everyone says nice things and then nothing changes. I mean, ask them, I bet they have plenty to say on things like this.

So, along with any new topics that you might introduce, my suggestion is to include a strong segment on "Okay, now that we know, what do we DO?" Maybe you'll have some suggestions based on your research that they can then adapt to their particular environments. Help them develop an action plan for sparking the changes they want to see and carrying the lessons from the outdoor education out into the world.

I keep reading a lot of articles and research about Kids These Days that says overall, they are so much more inclusive than past generations. I think maybe older generations keep giving them activities and lessons that are below them-- we're teaching ABCs but they already know how to read and want to write their own stories.

posted by scarnato at 10:02 AM on May 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is too cool. I wish I had more in the way of resources to offer, but I wish you the best of luck!

The truly epic thread about emotional labor brings up a lot of great points, but a lot of the focus is on adult relationships and expectations. I'm sure it could be mined for good content and ideas though!

I do have one potential activity suggestion:

When I was a sophomore in high school, we had to take a Career & Life Skills class. One of our big projects was that we were put into groups of two (mostly boy-girl) and together, we had to research and plan a fake wedding, from start to finish.

No surprise, pretty much every dude in the class said "Whatever you want is fine, fake honey" to their female partners and noped right out of the assignment after they sent in their guest list.

I didn't think much about it at the time, but as an adult, and especially after reading that emotional labor thread, I realized how very telling this was.

I wonder if there's a way to do a similar assignment, but shift the focus to the dynamics that come up during the party planning process rather than the actual finished party plan?

Like, maybe have them get in small mixed-sex groups and plan a fake birthday party and see how the labor is divided and who's doing the brainstorming, the logistics, etc. then afterwards, use this opportunity to talk about what emotional labor is, what it entails, and how it tends to fall squarely on women.
posted by helloimjennsco at 7:49 AM on May 12, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers! I used quite a few of these resources for my last lesson to staff and watched The Mask We Live In as prep. I also incorporated some lesson plans from and I also found a lesson plan that discussed the cost/benefit of challenging attitudes, belief, and behaviors at an individual, institutional, and social level. I'll be tweaking this more with students, but wanted to say thanks! Transference outside of discussions is something I try to incorporate a lot into lessons.
posted by ajarbaday at 2:43 PM on May 29, 2016

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