New course helps young girls navigate teen years

Eleanor Hall School students (L-R) Brieanna Nyal, Haley Ford, Madison Shank, MacKenzie Hein analyze the shape of their face as part of the school's Women Studies class.

Girls’ self-image and self-esteem takes a battering in a world where they are bombarded with distorted images of what it means to be female. “In this age of social media, girls are being frequently compared to others and exposed to messages about how they aren’t good enough unless they dress and behave a certain way,” said Michelle Savoie, who teaches Jr. High at Eleanor Hall School.

In a bid to help her students navigate adolescence with their self-image and self-esteem intact, Savoie is offering a new course - Women Studies - at Eleanor Hall School in Clyde. “I hope the girls will learn to be supportive of each other and gain confidence and self-esteem as they discover who they are and who they want to be.”

Savoie was inspired to develop the new option after hearing a presentation from the principal of Westmount Jr. High School about that school’s Girl Power program.

She drew on her experience teaching Grade 7 and 9 Health as she framed the course. “In Health, my primary focus was on developing the students’ confidence and self-esteem as well as discussing the issues that teens face with regards to cultural expectations and media influences.”

Launched Feb. 1, and open to all students in Grades 6 to 9, 25 girls have signed up for the option which runs daily as part of Eleanor Hall’s Career and Technology Foundations program.  

The class will focus on a woman as an individual and as a member of her community and world, says Savoie. “I want to teach the girls to be confident, strong, and independent leaders through the lens of the development of gender roles.”

Students explore key themes through hands-on activities  
Savoie has woven hands-on activities through the course to make the course objectives meaningful.  

Her students will discover how self-improvement techniques can enhance their natural beauty and express confidence without over-shadowing who they are by:

  • analyzing the shape of their faces to determine which hairstyle is most flattering
  • assessing their body shape to choose clothing styles that are the most complimentary
  • completing an online shopping activity to identify their own personal style

The students will investigate what it means to be a mentor/hero and then choose and report on a woman they admire. They will consider future careers by completing a personality test which identifies which careers might be the best fit for them.

Through self-discovery, self-awareness and reflection activities students will also explore their own views on self-esteem, self-worth, and body image. “The goal is to improve the way they see themselves and other women around them,” said Savoie.

The students will also look at how girls have been represented in history and media and how this influences the way they see themselves today. In this section, Savoie’s students will examine the history of woman’s beauty in North America and create a timeline of the changes based on a traditional female role like mother, nurse and teacher. “We will then look at the media and culture’s influence on the individual. Students will do a collage art project and Zentangle art project to illustrate this.”

Collaborating with high school teachers
Savoie worked with Barrhead Composite High School teachers Lori Sagbo (Cosmetology) and Kirsten Jacobsen (Foods) to organize a field trip which will see her Women Studies class spend the morning in the Foods classroom and the afternoon in the Cosmetology classroom.

In preparation for this field trip, Savoie’s students will plan recipes, table settings, dinner music and review dinner party etiquette and polite conversation. The girls will spend the afternoon learning about nail care and application.

At the six-week point in the new course, Savoie says her goal is that, “the girls will develop a sense of camaraderie as they go through this course but more importantly they will develop self-awareness and skills to cope with the challenges of being a female in today’s world.”

Published Mar 15, 2017