In Spring 2015, two fourth grade students, Henry and Henriet James (boy/girl twins) who attend North Elementary in Somerset, MA, decided it was time to do something about their school’s lunch policy that required boys and girls to sit at separate tables on opposite sides of the school cafeteria.
Henry and Henriet wrote an article in their school’s newspaper that questioned the policy and expressed their thoughts and feelings about separating boys and girls. To write it, they spent several weeks conducting research and interviewing people.
In August 2015, their principal announced that the policy was reversed and now boys and girls will be able to sit together at lunch.
7 and up
Questions to Start the Conversation
- How do you feel about what Henry and Henriet did?
- How would you feel if your school separated boys and girls at lunch or other times?
- What do you think made Henry and Henriet’s efforts so successful?
- What message does it send to young people when boys and girls are required to sit in separate areas?
- Is there a school rule or policy you think is unfair and if so, why?
Questions to Dig Deeper
(See the More Information section for articles and information that address these questions.)
- Do you think boys and girls should be separated for any activities and if so, why?
- Have you seen or heard about other examples where kids made a difference in their school or community?
- What do you think is meant by “gender norms?” In what ways are they harmful?
Ideas for Taking Action
Ask: What can we do to help? What actions might make a difference?
- Talk to other students about gender norms and gender bias and ask your teacher if you can discuss the topic in class or organize a school assembly about it.
- Identify an issue that is important to you and write a letter in your school or community newspaper about it.
- As a family, get involved in a social action cause that is important to you.
- Find out what children know and use the summary to expand their knowledge. Ask what else they want to know and investigate together to learn more.
- When discussing the topic, ask children open ended questions that deepen the conversation. Do not judge their responses and listen thoughtfully.
- Think together about a child-level action they can take; this can be something they do on their own or something you do together or as a family.
- School Lunch Policy: Kids Can Make a Difference (ADL Current Events Classroom lesson, grades 3-5)
- Toys and Gender (ADL Current Event Classroom lesson, grades PreK-3)
- How Can I Prevent Gender Bias in Young Children? (ADL, The Question Corner)
- Boys and girls will not be separated at lunch at North Elementary (South Coast Today)
- Want to be an activist? Start with your toys - McKenna Pope (TedEd)