It’s not often that girls are offered the same encouragement that boys are when it comes to adapting leadership roles. Sure, recent product ads have told us that girls can be powerful, and that we can be anything they want to, but on an academic level this kind of reassurance is still lacking in a huge way.
Fortunately, there’s one project that hopes to turn all this around. Girls With Ideas is a brand new curriculum aimed directly at female youth, in order to mould and encourage their leadership skills.
Since research shows that that a girl’s leadership confidence starts to dwindle between the ages of 9 to 13, creator Allison Poss designed this course to make sure middle school girls don’t lose their leadership mojo. The four part course can be taught to any girl, in any setting, so it’s clear that the program is not only inspiring and in-depth, but also wonderfully simple.
“[Girls With Ideas] provide interactive leadership programs designed to foster a future filled with confident, creative girls. By teaching girls leadership skills, we aspire to enrich girls’ lives and relationships and improve gender and leadership equity.”
With a learn-by-doing attitude, the course focuses on helping those involved to create an idea that will improve their school and/or community. They will develop this idea, watch it evolve, and put the idea into action. So every girl who finishes the course, will take something physical and meaningful out of it. Since there are no other course like GWI out there, we can’t let this opportunity pass us by.
As most great projects, Dr Poss has taken to Kickstarter to fund the program. Those who donate to the project will not only receive their own copies of the idea and work books that are necessary to take the course, but will also receive goodies such as T-shirts and a website feature. Every little thing helps, and even ten dollars will earn you a shout-out on their social media!
We recently had the honor of interviewing the creator of this fabulous project, Dr. Allison Poss. Read below to learn more about this initiative!
FEMBOT: Thank you so much for speaking with us, how are you today?
ALLISON POSS: Great!
F: So you came up with the idea for GWI after looking for similar programs that just didn’t exist, can you tell us what the problems were with the other courses, were they mostly aimed at boys?
AP: The other programs that I found were mostly for high school students, I struggled to find a program specific for your girls ages 9-13. The programs I did find for that age group were outdated, having examples and activities that would not be relevant or interesting to the girls that I was working with. Many of them also required me to attend a conference or training for thousands of dollars in order to be able to give, something that I could not afford. There was one program currently going on in the school directed at this age group but it was just for boys.
F: From looking at the different sections of the curriculum, it seems the course is very practical; does women’s history play a part in the syllabus?
AP: In the last section of the curriculum we have a lesson focused on the difference of being a girl leader vs a boy leader that discusses a brief history of women and gender inequity. We believe it is important to discuss that there are differences and how history plays a role in those differences but our goal in this is empowerment to move forward as confident leaders and not let that hold us back.
F: During the pilot for your project, what type of ideas have your students had? What did they look like after they put them into action in the third stage of the course?
AP: For our pilot the girls implemented two ideas. They started a program where they would teach kindergarteners in their school to be nice. In the third stage this involved them going into a kindergarten classroom twice a week to work with the students on kindness skills and have reinforce their positive behavior. The second idea they had was to makeover a garden at their school into a reading garden to encourage students to read more because the schools reading scores were low. During stage 3 they raised money for the makeover by selling shirts, entering a pitch competition for kids and advertised their effort in the paper, on a website they made, and going on the local news. They had a book drive to collect books and used the money to buy a Free Little Library structure and worked with the maintenance staff at the school district to redo the garden are to make it better and install a bench. They learned project management skills and practical skills of how to persuade people that your idea is important and get help. They also coordinated classmates that volunteered to help them physically pull plants and plant new ones.
F: Do you foresee any expansion on the project if the kickstarter, well, kicks off? Can you see the project being sent to and used in developing nations?
AP: Yes! We have a big vision to grow Girls With Ideas as the go to platform of all things related to Girls Leadership. We are currently planning camps and conferences for this summer locally that we hope to take off nationally. We are also building mini lessons, books, and products that relate to girls leadership. Our goal is to build up enough funds to then provide even more curriculum scholarships and to also fund the ideas that girls are coming up with in their curriculum. Down the line we are hoping to adapt the curriculum for different populations of girls that would include young girls in developing nations.
F: Since leadership skills are at the heart of your project, which female leaders do you look to for inspiration?
AP: I draw inspiration from Mindy Kailing. The last chapter in her most book was a huge inspiration for the curriculum of girls with ideas. She gives advice to young girls about building confidence by trying and doing things which I also believe is essential and important. She also starts critical conversations publicly about women in leadership roles. I also am inspired by Mika Brzezinski who wrote the books Know Your Value and Grow Your Value. Her work has inspired me to have confidence in myself and my work and not be afraid to talk about my work with others.
F: For the girls who have already finished the course, what comments have you gotten from the girls and their parents?
AP: For our pilot project we saw a decrease in problem behaviors with the girls and an increase in attendance We saw their leadership behaviors in the classroom also increase. The girls stated that they were able to now get along with people that they typically didn’t get along with, were more confident in themselves, and said it felt good that adults were listening to their ideas. After the project many of the girls also stated that they would continue to use their leadership skills ‘for good rather than evil’.
F: What is your favorite of the Kickstarter rewards you’re offering for those who donate?
AP: My favorite Kickstarter reward is our $35 reward. It provides a scholarship a girl to go through our program. After she goes through the program she will write the backer a thank you. At this reward backers will also get a cool t-shirt that is a graphic of a trophy that reads ‘Idea Champion’ – a term we use to refer to all of the people supporting these Girls With Ideas.
F: For any of our readers who are thinking of starting their own kickstarters or educational projects, what advice can you give them?
AP: If anyone is thinking of doing their own educational project, my advice is to not wait for an opportunity, create it. There are so many tools now that can make your idea happen. I was able to make my own website, launch my project via Kickstarter to work to raise initial funds, and run marketing campaigns through social media to tell people about my idea. None of that would have been possible 10 years. If you really want something the tools are out there so make it happen and don’t stop until you’re proud.