Saturday, March 23, 2013

"In Service of What?" Kahne and Westheimer -Hyperlinks-

As I read this article, I discovered that I have been unknowingly participating in Service Learning projects since I was in the fourth or fifth grade.  When I was in the fourth grade, I became a Girl Scout.  Nearly all Girl Scout badges and awards had some element of community service to them.  For one of the Interest Projects I earned my troop painted a room in the church where our meeting were held.  Then every year we participated in something called Project Undercover where we donated socks and underwear to under-privileged children throughout Rhode Island.  I helped a fellow troop member with her Silver Award Project.  She helped to teach younger girls about staying healthy.  We got teach them easy healthy recipes, how to properly wash their hands, and exercises that they could do every day.  While in Girl Scouts I got to work with several girls who had profound Autism, Down Syndrome, and other disabilities. 

 I was a Girl Scout for well over ten years and I couldn't tell you how many hours of community service I participated in.  One of the quotes from the reading that stuck out to me was: "In addition to helping those they serve, such service learning activities seek to promote students' self-esteem, to develop higher-order thinking skills, to make use of multiple abilities, and to provide authentic learning experience."  I know that for me, the years I spent in Girl Scouts complete validate the quote.  I was able to develop those skills as well leadership, responsibility, and many other valuable skills at a young age.  I know the troops that I was in didn't make community service projects seem like work.  Usually  we did projects with younger troops.  Whether I was an entire day dedicated to staying healthy or just a little craft project.
 My Community Service Patch

 My Patches for participating in Project Undercover

The Junior Aide Patch I earned for working with younger troops.

Throughout high school I was in several school clubs that actively participated in community service and service learning programs.  From ten through twelfth grade I was a member of the North Providence High Math Peer Tutors where I would go to one of the middle schools every Thursday and work with students in math.  It was a program very similar to the VIPS program only it took place after school.  I was a member of the Wind Ensemble where we would go to the other schools and put on concerts for them.  It was similar to what the music director in the reading did with his upper-middle-class students.  I was also a member and officer in my school's chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions.  The club's goal was to do our best to educate our fellow students about the dangers of substance abuse.  Then there was Senior Project.  For my Senior Project, I worked with the middle school band.  I participated in their after school band sessions, performed in their concerts, went on two of their field trips and I got to teach a few music classes. I was supposed to complete a minimum of sixteen mentoring hours  but in the end I completed well over forty hours!  I even went after I graduated!

I think I did my most rewarding Service learning projects through the martial arts school I attend.  I'm a certified black belt at Mastery Martial Arts and for the past few summers I have been helping with a program at Sargent Rehabilitation Center in Warwick, Rhode Island. Once a week during the summers I have been working with one of the Instructors in a program for teens and young adults who have suffered from brain injuries and another program for children and teens with profound Autism.  It really is amazing to watch the children progress in the program, especially the children with Autism.  During the first week or so we usually have a hard time getting the to do the movements and stand still but then by the end of the six week program they can stand still on their place marker, go through the movements with ease and even look us in the eye!

-Things to think about-
I know for me, doing volunteer work and service learning projects is almost as big a part of my life as going to school.  I've been able to use my past experiences as tool when I go to Kennedy Elementary School for the Service Learning Project through VIPS.  Has anyone had similar experiences?  Has anyone had no prior experience with Service learning project before the one we're doing for class?        

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"Cinderella Ate My Daughter" Orenstein

This was an interesting read for me.  When the whole Disney Princess franchise came to be I was about eleven years old and I was totally not into it.  Sure, I have seen every Disney Princess film at least once (my friends dragged me to "The Princess and the Frog" when it was in theaters) but it wasn't what I was interested in as a kid.  "Sleeping Beauty," "Beauty and the Beast," "Snow White," "Cinderella," "The Little Mermaid," and "Pocahontas" just weren't movies that I wanted to watch.  My younger sister, who is ten years younger than me, on the other hand was swallowed up by the Disney Princess Franchise.  She had every Disney Princess dress-up costume, several Princess Dolls, every Disney Princess Movie, the sequels to the movies, the sing-along movies, books, you name it, she probably had it.  So when Orenstein mentions that there were 26,000 Disney Princess items, it doesn't surprise me seeing that my sister must have had almost two hundred Disney Princess items and there was an almost endless amount of items that she didn't have. 

 One day when she was about four, my sister told me that she wanted to be a princess when she grew up and she asked me if I had wanted to be a princess when I was four years old.  I told her no and that when I was four I wanted to be a firefighter (see the picture below).  She cocked her head in a confused manner and said: "Oh, when you were a little boy?"   That conversation I had with my sister about eight years ago describes what Christensen talked about in the text "Unlearning the Myths that Bind Us" and the secret education.  The two terms that describes a person who fights fires are: "firefighter" and "fireman." The word "firewoman" is not in the dictionary.  At the age of four my sister had it in her mind that only little boys could want to become firefighters (or firemen) when they grew up and little girls could only want to become princesses when they grew up.  One of the lines that really stood out to em was when Orenstein said: "The boys seem to be exploring the world, while the girls explored femininity."  My mother used to work at an early childhood center and in the dress-up corner the boys would have policemen costumes, firemen costumes and Superman/Batman/Spiderman costumes when they girls would have princess dresses. Why can't they have a police woman costume, or a fire-woman costume?

Me dressed up as a firefighter for Halloween 1994 (age 4).  

The part of the article that really stood out to me was the part titled "Pinked."  There was one theme in that that I don't think is true.  She mentioned that when she was going through the Toy Fair one of the vendor mentioned that: "I guess girls are just born loving the color pink."  I am female and pink was never my favorite color and I never had a fondness for pink things.  My parents painted my childhood bedroom pink when I was about three years old and while my room was all the rage with my little girl friends I didn't particularly care for it.  I didn't hate it but I didn't love it.  My room stayed the soft pink color even after we moved out of the house almost seven years later. 

My Pink bedroom and me in 1997

-Things to Think about-
I don't think that girls are born to love the color pink.  I think that because society has automatically thrust the color upon little girls it has become a learned trait that starts from infancy.  "It's a Girl!" balloons are always pink.  This also goes back to the secret education that Christensen talked about.  Orenstein also pointed out that there was a time when pink was associated with boys and blue was associated with girls.  Pink was a variation of red which was considered a powerful and masculine color. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Going on about Christensen, a personal experience

The other day at work I had a little boy, probably about four or five years old, in my aisle at the market I work at.  He looked at me, turned to his mother and said: "Mommy, I can't tell if that's a boy or a girl."  I wasn't offended by it at all.  I could see why the boy was confused.  I am almost the exact opposite of how various forms of media depict young women.  I have short, almost messy dark hair as opposed to the long, pin-straight platinum-blond that you see in the media.  I don't wear any make-up at all.  Young women in the media are almost never seen without make-up on.  While young women in the media have thin, perfectly sculpted eyebrows, mine are rather bushy and unkempt.  Unlike in the media, I am not well endowed.  Unless I wear almost form-fitting shirts, I appear nearly flat chested (I'm not afraid to admit I'm flat chested).  The average cup-size in America is a 36C and I will admit to being a 32A (a size that is made for girls who are still developing).  There are almost no girls in the media who are like me.  Honestly, when was the last time a shorter-haired young woman appeared in a children's show, cartoon or otherwise?

 (A recent picture of me)

Several of my friends were outraged at the comment made about me, (My aunt went as far as saying: "What kind of a moron is he?") And I explained to them that children are honest, sometimes brutally honest. They don't have the filters that adults have and therefor they will say whatever happens to be on their minds.  Most adults wouldn't go up to an androgynous person and ask: "Are you a boy or a girl?"  But a young child would.  I'm sure that if the child was a little bit older and had to ability to read my rather long name (my younger brother called me Kaela until he was five because of the length of my name) he would have been able to deduce that I am female.  He wasn't trying to be rude.  He was just trying to figure something out in the only way he knew how.  By asking a question that few adults would dare to ask.