To help children begin to understand modern gender roles and identity issues, elementary schools in Seattle are testing new lessons that comply with state standards on health education.
The new curriculum will see schools offer children consistency in programs that address gender and self identity, and also provide ways for children to ask questions about complicated, personal issues such as sexual orientation. According to The Seattle Times, teachers in a dozen Seattle elementary schools have been piloting the curriculum for the last month with new, age-specific lessons.
For example, children in kindergarten are taught about different ways to express gender, second graders are given basics on gender diversity, fourth graders learn about the negative effects of bullying, and fifth graders are taught how media and culture can shape gender ideas.
The program was created by a task force of parents and teachers, which selected books for specific grades. One such book is “Introducing Teddy,” a short story about a teddy bear that identifies as a girl and wishes to be called Tilly. It was read to first graders to introduce them to the concepts of gender identity and expression.
“I’m a girl teddy, not a boy teddy,” the bear confides in a friend, according to KNKX. In response, Tilly’s friend is supportive, and says: “What matters is that you are my friend.”
After this school year’s trial, the Seattle district plans to receive feedback from teachers and roll out the lessons to all elementary schools next year.
By focusing on identity, rather than intercourse or body parts, the district hopes that the discussion will be more comfortable for both students and their parents. Schools may decide to provide parents with information about the program ahead of time, but they are not required to do so.