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Tackling Family Roles and Stereotypes

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How do cultural shifts impact representations of family roles in art?

During Term 1, students in Independence Level 3 explored the concept of Relationships through a deep study of depictions of family in visual arts. They analyzed a selection of American paintings, advertisements, films, and television shows created over the last century, focusing on key Cognitive Skills such as synthesis, inquiry, and reasoning. The students selected “inspiration pieces” to help them synthesize what they'd learned with their own ideas about stereotypes and family roles. They also conducted research to discover family dynamics within our school community, and they analyzed their findings.

Level 3 students at the Term Exhibition

One of the most important aspects of the project was its focus on self-awareness, one of our school’s targeted Character Strengths. Students reflected on their roles within their families, and each child created a personalized plan to be more involved at home. They also reflected on what they might like their roles to be when they grow up, considering whether they'd like to be parents, whether they plan to work outside the home, and how they can care for their families as adults. Students studied the family roles of the people in their lives by creating and sending out surveys about family responsibilities, and they wrote and engaged in conversations about their findings.

“We discussed role and gender stereotypes and the factors that influence family roles, like age, socioeconomic status, birth order, family philosophy, culture, and religion,” said IL3 Lead Advisor Heather Stinnett. “As a culminating activity, students chose a visual depiction of a family role and created their own piece of celebratory or critical artwork representing a common family situation or stereotype.”

At the first Term Exhibition of the year, students presented a gallery to our community, sharing their artwork and a display of their data findings.

"Students passionately poured their learning about stereotypes and traditional family roles into their art, celebrating how far we've come in the last century and satirizing what they think still needs to change," said Heather. "In their art pieces, girls were portrayed in professions like construction, boys had long hair, and Disney princesses shaved their heads. The students emerged with a newfound awareness and appreciation for how the media affects our mindsets about our roles and how we express ourselves. It was incredible to see seven- and eight-year-olds questioning cultural norms and defending each other's differences and self-expression choices."

"Stay at Home Dad" project Students conducted research to discover family dynamics within our school community, and they analyzed their findings. "Our inspiration piece was a protest sign about marriage equality which communicates that supporting marriage equality is to be on the right side of history."

Insight Questions:

  • How does art celebrate or satirize family roles?
  • What are some reasons family roles have changed over time?
  • How do you see your role in the future?