This project was centered around the question of research, funding, and results: was it possible to implement gender equity in a school over just three years?
This project grew out of the experience of the Caroline and Sigmund Schott Foundation in funding gender equity projects in Boston area public schools for many years. Staff and Board members of the Foundation observed that the good work of many projects disappeared when the funding ended. They raised the question of whether it was possible to do intensive, multi-year work in several sites, structuring the program in such a way that gender equity climates and policies would be institutionalized. Their question was: Is it possible over three years to change a whole school culture so that gender-equitable climates come to prevail at the school, in the curriculum, the teaching methods, and school climates and micro-climates? If so, how?
The Board launched the Gender Equity in Model Sites (GEMS) Project, providing funding to Peggy McIntosh, founder and co-director of the SEED Project on Inclusive Curriculum (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity). The project began in 2003 with the training of eight SEED seminar leaders in two 'model' sites, Cambridge Rindge and Latin School and Harbor School in Dorchester. Monthly, in-house, three-hour seminars for faculty, staff, and/or parents are at the heart of the initiative. Though the SEED Project deals with all forms of oppression and privilege, it was felt by the Schott Foundation that a gender-equity emphasis could be developed within a school with many SEED opportunities.
Each school also has funds of their own to be spent on coordination of SEED activities and GEMS programs, videos, materials, activities, trips, speakers, or anything else that school personnel feel will help in its particular effort to create non-typical school sites which are notable for gender equity. The first GEMS event was a focus group meeting on January 15, 2003, facilitated by Shirley Mark. It was a four-hour meeting on the education of African American boys. Consultants included Winston Cox, SEED leader, Harbor School, Dorchester; Barrington Edwards, SEED leader, Boston Arts Academy; Brian Gonsalves, SEED leader, Fenway High School; Nia-Sue Mitchum, SEED leader, Harbor School, Dorchester; Pedro Noguera, Harvard Graduate School of Education; and Janie Victoria Ward, Simmons College and Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Now in the third full year of implementation of the Project, eleven more faculty, staff, and parents have been trained as SEED leaders for monthly seminars in the two model sites. The project has an organic shape similar to that of a tree. The roots are the individual and group experiences which administrators, teachers, students, and parents bring to education. From these roots a trunk forms of individuals who would like to become leaders in equity and diversity, working with their peers in monthly interactive seminars. After attending the California New Leaders' Training Week, it is hoped that they themselves have developed greater confidence, group-building skills, courage to hold difficult conversations, improved listening ability, non-judgmental understanding of power relationships, willingness to learn about cultural differences, skill and imagination in interactive exercises, and most importantly, greater self-awareness. Ideally, the SEED seminars for which other staff, administrators, teachers, and parents enroll branch out to increase this same set of capabilities and capacities. At the top of the tree, these should come into the school atmosphere and lead to deeper examination of school policies and resource allocations regarding gender equity and other kinds of equity, increased student leadership in matters of equity, and teacher-leadership in developing more inclusive curricula and teaching methods. The whole tree shelters students and faculty of all backgrounds to feel safe, thrive, and achieve in the school environment.
In conjunction with the first full implementation year of GEMS at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, Principal Dr. Sybil Knight asked that Peggy McIntosh lead a monthly SEED seminar, January through May, for the ten deans of the school and herself and the assistant principal.
At the Harbor School all faculty and staff have elected to join the SEED seminar.
For further information on the GEMS Project, please call Peggy McIntosh, 781-283-2520 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.