Gender Equity Sessions with Mt Pleasant Primary School

Equity cartoon from idhsustainabletrade workshopNational Council of Women Ōtautahi Christchurch Branch was approached by four Year 8 students (12-13 year olds) from Mt Pleasant School in Ōtautahi Christchurch for support in running some sessions with young children at their school, around gender equity issues.

The girls had chosen gender equity as a year-long topic for a programme of study that is a primary school version of the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme. The four girls had already painted the toilets at the school (which had been blue for boys and pink for girls) green, and had discarded a raft of picture books in the school library that were too obviously gender specific and had set new rules with the Board of Trustees for future book buying.

The students decided that the aim would be to talk to the youngest children – age 5-6 – as the girls had found in their research that these young children were still forming ideas about gender roles. They wanted a focus on helping the children to understand that gender is something that doesn’t define you as a person; to look at breaking the stereotyping for both genders. Louise Tapper and Zoe Cummins from NCWNZ Ōtautahi Christchurch Branch talked with the girls about their ideas and then developed lesson plans for the session. These were based around talking to the children about what they wanted to be when they grew up, and then looking at different options for both boys and girls and talking this through to encourage non-stereotypical choices. We also developed an activity looking at babies dressed in pink and blue clothes and how children would name these babies, based on the clothes they were wearing. We talked about it being OK for boys to be in pink and girls to be in blue if they wanted to be and that there really didn’t need to be any rules. The four girls led the session – each class divided into four groups - with Louise and Zoe in support roles.

The lesson plans are detailed below.

Session on Gender Stereotypes with Mt Pleasant 5-6 Year Olds
Louise Tapper and Zoe Cummins
National Council of Women Ōtautahi Christchurch
23 September 2022

Learning Objective:

  • To introduce the idea of gender stereotypes and help the children to understand that gender stereotyping can limit ideas about what girls and women can actually do. Some of the ideas about what is expected of only girls and only boys don’t match with what happens in real life.
  • Gender stereotypes are harmful because they take a simple idea and try to say it works for everyone in a group. Gender stereotypes sometimes make people stop doing an activity they like and really want to do. They make it harder for people to be themselves and to like what they like.

Organisation of Classes:

Two classes of years 0-1; 5-6 year olds.
22 children in one class; 36 children in the other.
Classes to be divided into four groups for the sessions.
Kate, Zara, Isabella and Morgan will facilitate a group each. Zoe and Louise will move between groups. Teachers in the classes will also provide support.


  1. Ask some of the children in the group to tell you about what they might want to be when they grow up.
    • Have some pictures of boys and girls.
    • Show the children a chart with headings of different jobs – a doctor, a firefighter, a nurse, a teacher, a builder, a supermarket worker.
    • What do you think this girl might want to be when she grows up? This boy? Have different children put boy and girl pictures under chosen jobs.
    • Why did you put this boy/girl here? Is that a ‘boy’ job? Is that a ‘girl’ job? Why?
    • Talk about how both boys and girls could do any of these jobs.
  2. Show pictures of a baby in pink and a baby in blue. Ask the children for ideas about what they think the baby’s name could be?
    • Write names on a piece of paper – blue dressed baby/pink dressed baby. Why can’t the baby in pink be called Jack or Harry? Or the baby in blue be called Jessica or Sarah?
    • What if we told you that this baby dressed in pink clothes is a little boy? Why do you think the blue dressed baby is a boy? Why do you think only girl babies get put in pink?
  3. Common Ground Game
    • Children form a circle outside (?).
    • Call out statements and children who agree with the statement run into the middle of the circle = the Common Ground. Make sure children understand that there is no right or wrong answer.
    • Begin with general, warm up, statements:
      • All of you are in Room…
      • Mt Pleasant School is a great school
      • You have sandwiches in your lunchbox today.
      • Your favourite colour is purple.
    • Then move on to gender related statements:
      • Girls like reading books.
      • You think it’s cool for girls to play rugby.
      • All boys like to play tag.
      • Nurses are all girls.
      • Some children like the colour pink.
      • All boys like to play with trucks.
      • Boys can't be ballet dancers.
      • Some girls like to play with Lego.
      • Teachers are all girls.


Sit in the circle and explain to children about stereotypes. It is good to understand that both boys and girls can do anything they like to do, not just things that some people say only boys can do and only girls can do. When people stereotype boys and girls – that means make rules about what boys should do and what girls should do - it is not what happens in real life. In real life, some girls like to get very muddy and sometimes play rugby; some boys like pink and some boys really like dancing. Some girls will grow up and be firefighters and some boys will grow up and be nurses. That is all very OK. Everyone needs to feel Ok to be themselves and to like what they like.

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