It was a powerful semester in my Who Run the World: Women in Leadership Quest with Ms. Montague. We asked the girls to think about women in leadership roles – what do female leaders need to be successful? What could get in the way? What can we do to support other women and help the girls that we know and love to be successful, confident, and happy?
We started our semester by watching pieces of the documentary Girl, Rising, which follows girls from around the world as they fight for an education. This film lead us to a great discussion about how much we have to be thankful for, how far women have come as learners and leaders in America, and how many incredible opportunities we have here at St. Anne’s-Belfield School. From there, we started talking about how we can use what we have to help others. There are so many women and girls that need help – can we think globally, but act locally? What kind of changes can we make right here, in our own community? Can we be an asset to girls that we already know and love?
From there, we used the Design Thinking process to empathize with the girls in our school, define a problem, and ideate a solution. Using the group’s personal connections, we realized that some of the students in our Lower School had questions about issues like friendship and standing up for themselves, and that as middle schoolers, our group had expertise to share. So we went about designing an opportunity to provide some special time for our group to work with the younger girls, acting as role models and discussion leaders.
The planning was intense. What will they want to learn about? What do they need to know? Where can we find time in our schedules to work with them? How will we make them feel comfortable meeting and sharing with us?Guest speaker Kim Wilkens came to talk to us about her experience as a woman working in the field of Computer Science, and how both being mentored and acting as a mentor helped her along her journey. The group worked hard to create discussion questions, activities, and games that stayed positive and inclusive while sharing their important messages. They contacted fourth grade teachers to ask for permission to host students during the 4th grade break and recess time. Then, they delivered sign-up sheets to each classroom and invited girls in person to participate in the activity, advertising with posters that said things like “Girl Talk” and “Chick Chat”.
On the day of the activity, 7th and 8th graders were thrilled to have a large group of younger students arrive ready to learn, talk, and explore. They broke into groups according to their interests and participated in heartfelt discussions with their middle school mentors. Munching on snacks that the older girls provided, the groups talked about things like what the word confidence really means, how it feels when someone says something hurtful to you, or what you can do when you see a friend treating someone badly or being hurt by someone else. Our young guests left with huge smiles and a lot of “When can we do this again?” questions!
I could talk for hours about how proud I am of the smart, savvy, and determined group of girls that gave their time, passion, and attention as role models and mentors. I was so impressed with how seriously they took their roles as leaders, and with the messages that they shared with their guests. It was deeply moving to hear the thought and care they had put into their activities, and to see the way the 4th grade girls looked up to them. Watching them take charge and share their hard-earned social-emotional skills with the next set of middle schoolers made me proud and very excited for the future. If you’d like to see and hear more, check out the video above!
Congratulations to my T2 spring Quest group on a great semester and a fabulous Girl Talk! I’m so proud of everything that you accomplished, and you left me feeling so inspired. I’m going to miss seeing you twice a week, but I can’t wait to see the amazing things that you accomplish next.