Recess: School’s Out!!

Last week in Boston Public Schools, and many other MA school districts, was school vacation week. This means that thousands of students across the state had a full week to rest, relax and enjoy this confused Boston winter.

For a group of more dedicated youngsters, last week held the PlayWorks 5th Annual Junior Coach Leadership Convention. SIS and Northeastern played host to 4th and 5th grade students from over 20 Boston Public Schools. The convention served as an opportunity for students, affectionately known as “junior coaches”, to meet JC’s from other schools in the city.

The event was a two-day, fun filled experience for all. The convention was guided by an assortment of PlayWorks coaches along with assistance from SIS staff. The ultimate goal of the convention was to equip the students with tools meant to help them in their bullying prevention efforts as well as their quests to become young leaders. This was all done through unique exercises and simply—PLAY! The JC’s learned about the value in things like teamwork, goal setting and leadership.

As volunteers at the event, we SIS co-ops and interns got the opportunity to jump in the figurative sandbox with the kids and have some fun. I think that I must have given about 1000 high-fives to the JC’s. It felt good to be around their youthful enthusiasm. They were all dedicated to the social responsibility to make their schools a haven for peace and fairness.

For the JC’s, one of the most exciting activities of the convention was the student-athlete panel assembled by SIS. Kicking off the activity was an opening address from our own Dan Lebowtz. During this activity the students had the opportunity to speak with athletes from Northeastern about everything from scholarships to college life. The kids were all thrilled to ask the athletes questions and listened with fascinated ears. The panel had athletes from NeU’s field hockey, volleyball and club lacrosse teams to name a few. It even included SIS’s own ‘Chole and Suze aka “the twin towers”. The athletes definitely stole the show.

All in all, I had a blast and hope to be involved with the program next year.


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Snowed In!

Well I guess I should really say snowed out. After missing a few sessions on the bus due to midterms and the Mentors in Violence Prevention training, I thought this was going to be the week we would finally be able to say we met with all the groups. But everyone’s favorite clown fish decided to take a detour to New England before reaching his destination of P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney. Maybe for those who actually check the weather, this wasn’t much of a surprise, but for me Winter Storm Nemo was a complete shocker!

Due to last weekend’s “Snowpocalypse” we haven’t been on the Mobile Learning Lab since Thursday the 7th and with the student’s having February vacation next week, we won’t be back until the 26th. (Just when I was finally remembering everyone’s names too!)

My awful attempts at humor aside, we’re just a little over a month into co-op and so far it has been a great experience. Between the entire Sport in Society staff and the awesome groups of students we are working with, it’s easy to forget that we’re spending the day doing math and English (probably two of my least favorite subjects).

The Mobile Learning Lab has been an incredibly valuable experience. I can’t think of any other co-op that would give me the opportunity to work with such a diverse group. Even though I’m supposed to be tutoring them, I’ve been both “schooled” and challenged by the students on the bus.When it comes to high school Math my memory can be just as unreliable as Dori’s. I definitely need to refresh my memory on exponents/ PEMDAS and need to brush up on my geometry skills! When it comes to high school Math my memory can be just as unreliable as Dori’s.

Not only are the students on the bus eager to learn, making it easy to look forward to work each day, but they also have fun personalities, creating a great environment. With how well the first month of co-op has gone, I can’t wait to see what washes up in remaining five.

P.S. To anyone who read this, thanks for tolerating my attempts at Finding Nemo jokes! :)

Breaking the Box.

          Bikinis. Astronauts. Shark attacks. Running in slow motion. What do these things have in common? According to Axe’s newest commercial “Lifeguard”, this combination naturally makes one think of men’s cologne.  The vignette features a blonde young woman being dramatically rescued by an attractive male lifeguard, only to have the girl chase a man in a spacesuit walking on the beach. The phrase “Nothing beats an astronaut…Ever” appears across her bikini-clad body as the camera pans her running after him. Hardly Axe’s most offensive advertisement (my vote is for this “Chocolate Man” ad) I still noted the obvious stereotypes when this commercial aired during the Super Bowl last Sunday.

          This obvious “sex sells” approach is so ubiquitous in advertising today that its almost expected, but after the Mentors in Violence Prevention training we had last week I watched the Super Bowl commercials with a renewed interest in commercially-enforced gender stereotypes. One of the activities we did at the three-day training was The Box exercise, where we split into men’s and women’s groups to discuss gender pressures, and list what attributes were stereotypically male and female. Those qualities were listed inside a large box; in the space outside we listed the names given to individuals who fall outside that socially accepted norm. For the women’s sheet, we wrote things like “thin, domestic, sexy (but not too sexy), feminine, emotional” and outside the box we had words like “slutty” and “butch”. After this activity the male and female groups came back together and watched almost fifteen minutes of commercials that really proved how enforced and pervasive these stereotypes are.

          When selling a product, it’s easy to reach for the stereotypes, either featuring the obviously sexy woman in ads, or exclusively aiming yogurt commercials at women. But are the sellers of appetizing dairy products really concerned with female calcium intake? Or are they pushing the stereotype of women who are constantly concerned with dieting and who eat yogurt instead of dessert, lest they fall outside the “thin, sexy” box? If we aren’t careful, we’ll simply accept these stereotypes and eventually be complicit in constructing these boxes ourselves. And as we discussed in our MVP training, these stereotypes encourage sexist attitudes and language, and propagate the objectification of women. Both of these are methods for demeaning females in society, which only escalates through the Pyramid of Sexism, which is a tool that maps how these lower-level, non-violent ways of degrading women support more violent and abusive acts.

          That’s not to argue that stereotypes can’t be a useful method for advertising at a select demographic; focus groups confirm similar interests for certain age or gender groups. And I think everyone enjoys the Old Spice “Man Your Man Could Smell Like” cheeky, over-the-top commercials that mock Axe advertising. But we need to be careful what interests we support when we talk about the Super Bowl commercials this week. Jarrod, one of our MVP facilitators, actually mentioned an old Super Bowl commercial during our unit on media stereotypes.

          In 2007 Snickers aired a spot called “Kiss” which featured two mechanics accidentally kissing while eating a Snickers bar. The men panicked and immediately needed to do something “manly” to offset their lip lock; they began pulling out their chest hair to prove their stereotypical manhood. After an immediate and overwhelmingly negative response, Snickers pulled the advertisement and its related web content. This is a great example of the impact we can have when facing sexism in media stereotypes. And it’s even easier today, with outlets like Twitter and FaceBook, to condemn sexist or homophobic media. Everyone has the opportunity to be an active bystander, and to rebuild our own boxes to include us all. 


The masters of the MVP training, Jarrod and Amy, presenting me with my graduation diploma!

            This week I had the lovely opportunity to attend one of Sport In Societies programs called Mentors In Violence Prevention (MVP).  The training was led by the masters of MVP, Jarrod and Amy, and consisted of thirty adults.    The MVP program was dominated with discussion, and I was able to understand the other adults’ perspectives on different situations regarding violence against women.  It was an amazing experience, and I enjoyed meeting and listening to everyone at the MVP program.

            Before the MVP program began I thought we were going to be staring at PowerPoint slides all day.  However I was completely wrong.  The MVP training was engaging because it was mainly discussion based.  One thing that struck me was the mixture of personalities in the room; we had a variety of people and it helped create intriguing discussions.  But I soon realized after our first icebreaker (I forgot the name, but I believe it was called Spiders Web?) that while we might look different, we had something in common with each member of the MVP program.  It was a fun game in which one person stood in front of the room and made a statement like, “I love peanut butter.”  The first person that felt the same way about that individuals statement by staying “yes”, would run up and link arms with the individual who made the statement.  We continued until we were eventually all linking arms with each other, forming a circle.  It was revelation to see people from all walks of life having so many things in common. 

            My favorite component of the MVP training was it was heavily discussion based.  Everybody was given the chance to voice their opinion.  The activity where you really got to see people’s particular stances on certain issues was called “Agree, Disagree, and Neutral.”  During the activity facilitators Jarrod and Amy would present the group with a statement like “Do you think it is OK for men to sometimes hit women.”  After we had read the statement they told us to stand on the particular side of the room if we agreed, disagreed, or were neutral towards the statement.

            The reason I enjoyed this activity so much is people had such different takes on the statements.  It made me realize that people interpret things so differently, and what might seem rational to you, could be viewed completely differently by someone else.  The activity helped me understand people have different life experiences that help cultivate different perspectives on particular issues.  After attending the MVP training I now understand the importance of having an empathetic view towards humans.  Having the ability to put oneself in “someone else’s shoes,” could help others and myself understand why people think and act the way they do.  I just want to reiterate I had an amazing time at the Mentors In Violence Prevention (MVP) training, and if you ever have the chance I would definitely recommend attending.