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“I always tell the boys, ‘You’re going to have a turn’ — and I’m like, ‘Yeah, when hell freezes over’ in my head,” she said. “I tell them, ‘You’ll have a turn’ because I don’t want them to feel bad.”
Although her approach might anger some parents, Keller is sticking to her guns: It’s all part of a plan to get girls building during “free choice,” the 40 minutes of unstructured play time embedded at the end of every school day.
For years, Keller, who has taught at Captain Johnston Blakely Elementary since 2008, watched with discouragement as self-segregation defined her classroom — her boy students flocked to the building blocks while her girl students played with dolls and crayons and staples, toys that offered them little challenge or opportunity to fail and develop perseverance.
Further, female STEM role models are few and far between, and part of the reason for their underrepresentation, Keller believes, are the gender stereotypes women are socialized into from an early age.
She faults toymakers for reinforcing those roles — “the stuff LEGO is marketing for girls is just so limiting;” ‘girl’ sets replete with themes such as baking, cooking, care-giving, homemaking, decorating and hair styling — but she also faults teachers for not taking action.
At first, Keller tried enticing her girl students with pink and purple Legos.
“But it wasn’t enough,” she said. The girls weren’t interested and the boys just expanded their palettes.
So this past fall, when Bainbridge Schools Foundation announced its Classroom Enrichment Grants, Keller saw her chance to affect change.
She asked for funding to purchase LEGO Education Community Starter Kits for three Blakely classrooms, writing that “while it’s not necessary to board up the playhouse and adopt the babies out, concrete steps can be taken to ameliorate the gender gap in the kindergarten and present engaging ways to develop girls’ spatial skills.”
What she didn’t tell BSF, however, was that the boys wouldn’t get to play with the new 1,907-piece sets.
“I had to do the ‘girls only Lego club’ to boost it more,” she explained. “Boys get ongoing practice and girls are shut out of those activities, which just kills me. Until girls get it into their system that building is cool, building is ‘what I want to do’ — I want to protect that.”
In Keller’s mind, it’s a fair practice “because fair is getting what you need to succeed or to get better.” Fair doesn’t have to be the same, and she says her kindergarteners get that.
At least for now.
While Keller sees more girls in the building area than before, it’s still not the norm, she said.
originally posted by: BlueJacket
a reply to: ketsuko
I am dumbfounded in how in each case of supposed or actual inequality, the "fix" is solely a reversal of roles, with a cavalier "they deserve it" attitude.
Following the release of a recent news article, the Bainbridge Island School District (BISD) has received inquiries that reflect inaccurate perceptions about student access to Legos in Karen Keller’s kindergarten classroom at Blakely Elementary School.
In keeping with a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education grant, Ms. Keller gave girls a designated time to play with the building toys during a 30-minute 'free-choice' time block in September 2015. This isolated, short-term practice ended in October. All students in all classrooms have and will continue to have access to all instructional and noninstructional materials.
originally posted by: AmericanRealist
a reply to: introvert
well then, i am glad she quit. By her own admission she segregated the play areas for Lego.
I have a boy currently in Ms. Keller's class and we love her! If you don't have a kid in her class, you don't know what you're talking about and have no right to denounce her! Even if the boys couldn't play with the legos (which they can, by the way) who cares? There are a million other toys to play with!