March 20, 2006

Mirror Mirror

Posted on Wed, Mar. 15, 2006

True reflections"Mirror, Mirror" workshops help girls see and appreciate their real selves.
Pioneer Press

Five local teenage girls want younger girls to know that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colors.So, they've created "Mirror, Mirror," a workshop on self-esteem and body image aimed at girls 9 to 12. Since December, they've presented to a handful of St. Paul and Minneapolis Girl Scout troops and one day hope to create a training video to spread their message."The more the merrier," says Elle Kokkinos of St. Paul, one of the teenagers behind the project. "Seeing these girls see that they're beautiful almost makes you want to cry."Kokkinos' mother, Wendy Nemitz, had the original idea for the workshop, which fulfilled a community-service requirement for a local leadership program. Nemitz, a marketing professional, also wanted to spend more time with her daughter.Kokkinos, 15, and her friends, Elin Harm, Heather Campbell-Bezat, Caroline Thompson and Christina Letness — sophomores at De La Salle High School in Minneapolis and Central High School in St. Paul — met with a committee of women and started shaping the workshop.The workshop, which runs just over an hour, is part performance, part lecture, with big helpings of art and affirmation. One recent night, Kokkinos, Harm and Campbell-Bezat spoke to 10 fifth-graders from Troop 1158 at Randolph Heights Elementary School in St. Paul.They began by performing a skit about the new girl being accepted at school. The girl shrinks back as the Popular Girls approach."Eeww — look at the new girl … ." Kokkinos says, playing the Queen Bee. "She's wearing a green shirt, jeans."Thing is, the new girl is wearing the same thing as the Popular Girls. Some of the scouts say they have seen this happen — or variations of it."Stereotypical popular snottiness isn't right," Kokkinos says. "That goes on a lot at schools."Next, the girls tap their inner artists. Using colored felt markers, they draw pictures of themselves on poster boards. Kokkinos, Harm and Campbell-Bezat peek over shoulders and offer praise."Ooohh, I really like the hair," Harm says about one of the self-portraits.Next, the girls write three positive comments about themselves on their pictures. Some of the girls find it hard to do. After that, Campbell-Bezat instructs them to move around the room and write at least one positive comment on each drawing. The pens fly."You're a good soccer player."Love your eyes."You will grow up to be an extremely beautiful woman."The teenagers show photographs of themselves when they were fifth-graders on the cusp of puberty.The conversation moves to serious talk about anorexia, bulimia and obesity. Two scouts say they know people with anorexia. One girl reminds the rest about Mary-Kate Olsen, the young actress who was treated for anorexia."Women are meant to have fat," Kokkinos says. "The average woman is 5-foot-4 and 152 pounds. The average actress is 5-foot-9 and 100 pounds. Can you imagine that?"The teens stress the importance of eating nutritious foods and getting enough exercise — rather than trying to live up to unrealistic Hollywood standards of beauty. They circulate celebrity magazines laden with photos of stick-figure-thin actresses. Campbell-Bezat reminds them magazines airbrush photos."If you look through these magazines, (the models) all look the same," Harm says. "Look around this room. None of us looks the same."Nowhere is that more true than when the teens unveil the magic mirrors. Each scout gets a jeweled hand mirror in a pretty bag with instructions to take a good look at herself and read the comments on her portrait. Soon, a cacophony of voices fills the room."With conviction!" Campbell-Bezat says, amid the din.Scouts Mackenzie Wolff and Sarah Hoh, both 11-year-old fifth-graders from St. Paul, give the workshop a thumbs-up. They say they got good information about what to expect as they grow up — and a boost of self-confidence.Wolff says she enjoyed reading aloud the comments on her page."With attitude," Hoh says.

School Science

Belfast Telegraph Home > News

School science held back by battle of the sexes
14 March 2006

Boys want their science lessons to be about weapons of mass destruction and the effect of chemical weapons on the human body while girls prefer to learn about how to deal with anorexia or bulimia or the significance of their dreams.

The stark contrast in what pupils look for from science has prompted researchers to call for curriculum planners to consider drafting separate syllabuses for each sex. The findings emerge in a study of what 15-year-olds want from science lessons conducted by Leeds University, published today.

"The responses of the boys reflect strong interest in destructive technologies and events," say the researchers. Boys opted for alternative therapies as their most dreaded topic. Girls, by contrast, would prefer to learn about their own bodies. They wanted to know how to deal with eating disorders and they were also interested in how to beat cancer and what to do to keep fit, leaving teachers with a daunting prospect for teaching a mixed-gender class.

There was, though, some measure of agreement on what they least wanted to learn about. Both sexes were equally turned off by the thought of studying the benefits and possible hazards of modern farming methods. Neither wanted to study "famous scientists and their lives".

The findings come from a study by the Centre for Studies in Science and Mathematics Education at the University of Leeds, which aimed to find out how science could be made more popular. It follows years of decline in take-up of the subject at GCSE and A-level. Last summer the number of pupils taking a science GCSE fell by 8,000. While A-level entries rose overall by nearly 85,000 (12.1 per cent) between 1991 and 2005, entries in physics dropped by 35.2 per cent and chemistry by 12.6 per cent.

The researchers, who contacted 1,200 students in England, say most pupils did not like school science as much as other subjects. But contrary to public perception, they said they did not find GCSE science difficult.

A significant minority of students believed environmental problems were "exaggerated", "the cause of too much anxiety" and "best left to the experts".

The researchers said that the "persistence of gender differentials" in what pupils wanted to study could be described as "disappointing" in view of the millions ploughed into ensuring equity of access.

They said the question of separate lesson plans for each sex might have to be considered if the Government and curriculum planners really wanted to reverse the decline in take-up of the sciences at GCSE and A-level.

Boys like ...
* Explosive chemicals.
* How it feels to be weightless in space.
* How the atom bomb functions.
* Biological and chemical weapons and what they do to the human body.
* Black holes and other spectacular objects in outer space.
* How meteors, comets or asteroids can cause disasters on earth.
* The possibility of life outside earth.
* How computers work.
* The effects of strong electric shocks and lightning on the human body.
* Brutal, dangerous and threatening animals.

Girls like ...
* Why we dream and what it means.
* Cancer, what we know and how can we treat it.
* How to perform first aid and use basic medical equipment.
* How to exercise to keep the body fit.
* How we can protect ourselves against sexually transmitted diseases.
* What we know about HIV/Aids and how to control it.
* Life and death and the human soul.
* Biological and human aspects of abortion.
* Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.
* How alcohol might affect the body.