Exploring Gender Stereotypes in Middle School Health and Wellness
Nashoba Brooks School’s social-emotional learning objectives are spread across disciplines and departments, and one of the most significant pieces for our middle school students is their health and wellness class. Guida Mattison, who has been helping young people navigate the world of personal development awareness since 2007, is continually modifying her curriculum while she learns alongside her students.
At NBS, there’s no textbook for health and wellness class, a subject area that has grown in scope as new ideas about mental health and awareness have emerged. Ms. Mattison’s curriculum is designed after years of watching students learn. This year in 7th grade, her content began with a topic common in all girl’s schools—how are women perceived in the media? Ms. Mattison explained how she has learned that this area of study is still important, but alone, inadequate: “In 2011 the film Miss Representation was released, and really highlighted a bias against women in the media and it’s negative affect on young girls. I used to show the entire movie, and it was great. The students really responded to the messaging, and I would hear students making connections and often relaying stories of their own experience with gender bias from boys or adults. I then started to realize that my class’s message was too binary.” And she admits that teaching this class has helped her see her own bias.
Ms. Mattison explained that the positive messaging in this celebrated film helped elevate a consciousness of women’s struggle, and she still uses clips from it today, “but something had to change when I heard my students, in the same breath say that they loved the movie, and then also make fun of boys using age-old stereotypes.” Determined to craft an equitable message, she incorporated the stereotypes that boys have to deal with too. Specifically, the pressures they have to be “manly.” She watched as her students began to see the entire picture. “I wanted them to know that stereotypes and social pressures exist for everyone, and everyone deserves to be seen for who they truly are: girls, boys, and nonbinary students,” she said, and then went on to explain how seeing the whole picture was the only way we could begin to fix the whole problem.
Ms. Mattison’s belief that “at this age, they’re learning who they are, which is why it’s so important that we teach them how to think critically about the world around them,” is roundly felt by her students. Zoe Wallace, a seventh grader in Ms. Mattison’s class, has enjoyed this critical lens: “I think it’s nice and interesting to see that girls can stereotype boys too, that it goes both ways.” And Vittoria Rodenhiser, also in Zoe’s class, added that she “appreciated learning about how all these things came about.” Historical context, a part of Ms. Mattison’s curricular foundation helps “women know who we are now by seeing where we’ve been in the past.” She used the example of the stay-at-home dad, an American vocation that is becoming more common, but fifty years ago, men who are first, family caretakers, are hard to find. Seeing that women have been relegated to the homefront for much of American history is an important step in understanding why upward professional mobility for women remains difficult today. Ms. Mattison’s class goes one step further in part by magnifying male truth and highlighting that men who choose to manage their households are often met with ridicule and scorn.
At NBS, social-emotional learning in the upper grades doesn’t mean adding diversity, equity, and inclusion to curriculum periodically, it means molding a syllabus with the hands of these imperatives. If middle school is a time, biologically and socially, when young people begin to create their first selves, these DEI should be in every facet of a student’s experience. The first month of health and wellness is a tribute to this ideal.
In this initial rush of self-discovery, teachers at Nashoba Brooks make it a priority to imbue the importance of flexibility and change when developing perceptions. These perceptions will be ideas that students lean on or fall back to, especially when they are met with difficult ethical questions in the future.
Nashoba Brooks' school counselor, Liz Joyce, was accepted as a 2021-2022 fellow by The National Coalition of Girls' Schools' Global Action Research Collaborative. NCGS is an advocacy group that helps connect schools and organizations that educate and empower girls.
On Wednesday, October 20, the School held a dedication event to officially name the Sureau Family Discovery Barn. While the pandemic limited the size of the event, the community looks forward to a larger spring celebration of this compelling new addition to our campus facilities.
This year our students celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month by investigating a myriad of Hispanic and Latinx scholars, writers, and activists. In the first half of the month, students explored fifteen impactful individuals and events, selected by the Inclusivity Leadership Team (ILT).
To start the school year, Grade 8 students traveled up into Maine's cooler weather. Almost three hours north, Camp Chewonki is a staple of the Grade 8 experience at Nashoba Brooks, and after a hiatus last year, students and teachers alike were happy to return. For years, Camp Chewonki has provided a place for the leaders of the student-body, the new Grade 8 class, to come together, bond, and think about the year ahead of them.
In August, our Middle School Latin Teacher Maritere Mix was invited to present at the OER conference for Social Studies educators. The conference is run by the Open Educational Resources Project, “a coalition of educators and historians solely focused on boosting student engagement and achievement through transformational social studies programs.” The project is dedicated to providing teachers with high quality curriculum and engaging content to help bring history to life for students. Ms. Mix presented in the track focused on “arguments with evidence.” Her track talk considered ways teachers can help students connect more meaningfully with the past.
Ms. Mix explores how to structure activities that support student investigations of primary sources, and helps them to think critically about the past with empathy for the people who lived through it. Ms. Mix’s goal is to empower students to make informed claims and to enable them to relay captivating historical accounts. In addition to her track talk, Ms. Mix participated in a live panel discussion with Bob Bain from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Nate Otey, a fellow in Philosophy at Harvard. She says she found the live discussion “a great opportunity for us to delve deeper into our topic and address some of the questions from the more than 200 conference attendees.” This was Ms. Mix’s first time presenting in this forum and she admits to feeling outside of her comfort zone. Her risk taking is a great model for her students and she hopes for the opportunity to do it again in the future. You can view Ms. Mix’s track talk on the OER website.
Are you ready for a design challenge? This week’s Nashoba Brooks Notion invites you to practice the iterative process of design thinking by participating in a STEAM building activity! The challenge is to build multiple versions of a tin foil boat and then test the buoyancy and strength of your boat by adding pennies progressively. Here is a document that explains the challenge and lists the necessary supplies. There is also an optional chart for recording your data and an optional set of reflection questions. We encourage you to work together with your family to build your boats. Good luck!
Every year, thousands of Latin students across the United States and the world take the National Latin Exam (NLE). The NLE is not meant to be a competition, but rather an opportunity for students "to experience a sense of personal accomplishment and success in their study of the Latin language and culture." Depending upon their score in relation to the national average, students may earn certificates, medals, and may even qualify for scholarships. This year, 31 of our Grade 7 students participated in the Introduction to Latin level exam. The national score average this year was 33/40, which is higher than in past years. We are pleased to report that 16 students received certificates, and 12 of them were also awarded medals (8 silver and 4 gold). We are very proud of all our Grade 7 students for the time and effort they have put into their Latin study this year.
This week, Nashoba Brooks announced its “reVision Tuition Plan” to reduce tuition and provide parents with three years of visibility into annual tuition costs. The School’s plan will cut tuition by an average of 15% over the next three years, reducing costs for families by an average of 5% each year from current rates.
Building on the School's history of inspired education and innovation, we are excited to expand our offerings through this pilot program and a chance to reach new students beyond our School community. Whether you are looking to enrich your child’s learning with an engaging workshop or get some extra help with schoolwork, you will meet knowledgeable instructors who bring creativity, experience, and a warm, inclusive approach. Check out our various sessions, and meet our talented team of online instructors!
On October 28, Head of School Danielle Heard, Assistant Head of Lower School Tim Croft, School Counselor Liz Joyce, and Middle School Science Teacher Susan Lewis, presented at the National Coalition for Girls Schools’ Educating Girls Symposium on “Building Inclusive Anti-racist School Communities.”
Situated on a beautiful 30-acre campus in historic Concord, Massachusetts, Nashoba Brooks School enrolls all genders in Preschool through Grade 3, and students identifying as girls in Grades 4 through 8. Nashoba Brooks is an independent school designed to build community, character, and confidence in its students.