The term “hidden curriculum” refers to the unwritten, unofficial, and often unintended lessons, values, and perspectives that students unconsciously learn and adopt through their school environment. The hidden curriculum of gender norms and heteronormative norms can be reinforced by students and peers, teachers, and/or administrative policies. This is an incredibly important and relevant problem to address because reinforcing sexism and homophobia throughout a student’s childhood in their school environment has long lasting ramifications, affecting the way they view themselves and their identity, the way they treat others based on their gender and/or sexuality, and the overall empathy they may hold and act with in society as a whole. I believe this problem, of a hidden system reinforcing sexism and homophobia in US schools, is mainly a result of people reacting to the structures maintained in our society, which 1) were historically set by white, straight, upper class men and 2) are designed to benefit those who fit that exact demographic as well. Therefore, in every other facet of society (the social climate, the domestic sphere, and the classroom) p eople unconsciously reinforce the norms and expectations set by these structures because that is all they know. By creating a long-term program that will offer students the opportunity to analyze and engage with the possible causes and symptoms of the problem through applied theatre as a pedagogical tool, they will be able to leave this program more informed about the hidden curriculum of gender, and will be more likely to take further actions that help dismantle this hidden curriculum being pushed upon themselves and their peers.
In order to 1) introduce the concept of the Hidden Curriculum of Gender and Sexuality that exists not only in schools, but in society as a whole as well, and to 2) address and dismantle this hidden curriculum, I would like to approach this problem through a system of applied theatre curriculum implemented over the span of a school year in a first grade classroom at a public school, preferably in an economically disadvantaged area (perhaps in Newark, OH.) I am interested in working with this particular demographic, students ranging from 6-8 in first grade, attending school that’s located/ living in an economically disadvantaged area, because of multiple factors. I believe the younger that students are when they learn about larger themes and ideas, such as equality, respect, gender and sexuality, and societal pressures, the better they will be at being self-actualized, aware, critical thinking individuals. I also am particularly interested in working with this specific demographic because of my work in Community Service Learning through my education courses at Denison, the Critical Pedagogy I have learned in my various education courses, and my own schooling experiences at both economically disadvantaged and advantaged schools growing up in Sacramento, CA. Schools that are less advantaged, and therefore students that are less advantaged, could especially benefit from extra opportunities and special programs such as this one, where these topics may not be typically addressed at home or in those schools, but are still very relevant.Preferably, this would take place over 9 months during the span of a regularly scheduled school year, and would break down the curriculum into 5 main units, one per 1-2 months. The unit and lesson categories would include the following, but could also expand, depending on the student’s input and feedback during and following each lesson.
4 LEARNING GOALS
1. Having a clear understanding of the term “Hidden Curriculum,” specifically within the context of Gender and SexualityAnalyzing and engaging with the possible causes and symptoms of the Hidden Curriculum of Gender and Sexuality
2. Utilizing Applied Theatre as a pedagogical tool to initiate dialogue, critical thinking, and opportunities for active engagement and self-expression within the classroom
3. Having a clear understanding of terms including equality, respect, consent, gender, sexuality, expression, and curriculum
4. Learning how to have agency as individual persons in their personal lives as well as in their community of Newark, OH through open dialogue, Applied Theatre, socratic circles, and off campus learning opportunities
5. Building the “growth-mindset” through positive language and viewing failure as temporary or beneficial to the learning process
6. Learning to disagree in a group setting without being disagreeable
7. Building an understanding of “design thinking” and practicing basic design thinking principles through group activities
8. Applying design thinking and improvement science principles when exploring solutions to the Hidden Curriculum of Gender and Sexuality
9. Encouraging regular self and group reflection/critique on the learning process
5 UNIT BREAK DOWN/ TEACHING GOALS
1. Our Classroom as a Safe and Explorative Learning Environment/ Roles in Society
Through applied theatre games and techniques, facilitator (teacher) will initially help establish the classroom as a safe space for students to experiment, discuss, engage, and be vulnerable with one another for the remainder of the school year
The facilitator will also hold an open dialogue, in the form of a large circle discussion, where all the students have the chance to voice their thoughts, and the class will together build a set of community expectations that they want to put in place for the rest of the year. These will be posted in a public spot in the classroom, and will be returned to for review at least once a month. The facilitator should ask questions and pose scenarios that get the first grade students to think critically and develop some important standards.
Once a sense of mutual respect, trust, and communal expectations have been established for everyone in the classroom, applied theatre games in the form of improvisation and _____ to introduce the concept of “roles” in society. Have the students think about through these games, and then through post-game discussions:
What are the benefits of having roles? What are the downsides and possible harms to having roles? Who teaches or implements roles? Family, media, schools? Are some roles better than others? Why? What are some of your roles? Considering your biological gender (define this as opposed to performative gender), race, birth order, interests, etc. How do you feel about your roles?How can someone change their roles? Do they have to follow the roles that society gives them? Why or why not?
2. Our Bodies, on the Inside
Facilitator leads applied theatre activities that show what bodies consist of on the inside: mind, personality, heart (3 components that every person has the potential to develop)
Music-based applied theatre activities, that allow for creativity and individual expression
Continuation of improvisational games
Introduction of concepts (for the “heart” section) including LOVE, RESPECT,and EMPATHY
3. Our Bodies, on the Outside
Facilitator leads physical applied theatre activities, based in dance and creative movement to show what bodies have the potential to be capable of
Recognition of Abled Bodies and Disabled Bodies coexisting together in society, and the spectrum of limitations and abilities that a person can have. What can we do to make sure all bodies and abilities are accommodated for and included in all spaces? (Arts-based applied theatre activity and discussion)
Reintegration of the inner body concepts: love, respect, and empathy, then introducing CONSENT, which involves your body in the same space as another person’s body (facilitator leads partner-based improv and movement games that teach consent)
4. Gender: it’s a Construct
What IS Gender? What ISN’T Gender?
Introduce concepts through facilitated applied theatre: Gender vs. Sex vs.Sexuality, the spectrum of gender performance, the spectrum of sexuality, societalexpectations for genders
Male vs. Female- why such a divide? (through improvisational games, highlightthe divides found in everyday life, expectations, experiences, stereotypes, then experiment with “what if?” situations where if the genders were flipped, or if an individual exhibited both masculine and feminine traits)
Draw a “Gender Superhero”: have the students draw their ideal super hero who embodies all of the concepts we’ve learned in this unit: embracing gender being a construct, being inclusive to all genders, not placing expectations on anyone because of their performed gender or perceived sex
5. Applying What We Know to the World Around Us
Students will look at various texts (picture books probably), TV shows, other forms of media to see how gender roles are present in society. What effects do they have on society? On the students themselves?
Students will experiment with performing in a role different from the one they typically perform in for one month and reflect on it daily in classwide discussions plus video journaling: i.e. dressing in a more masculine/feminine way, participating in different activities at recess that the other gender group of students do, anything else they can identify as more stereotypically “boyish” or “girly”. What do they learn from this experience? Will they continue on any of these new habits after the learning experiment is over?
Applying real life statistics through applied theatre: through physical tableaus, narrative scenes, and art, students will portray shocking statistics that demonstrate systemic sexism and prejudice against women (and women of color, trans women, members of the LGBTQ+ community) in various settings of life.
Students will set one goal for themself through a “One Goal” project, to challenge the Hidden Curriculum of Gender that they are taught by society. This can be a short term goal that is measurable and can reflect upon, or a long term goal that they plan and envision through an artistic project.