Carly Simmons
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Being A Boy: A New Sexual Education

 
 

Being a Boy

Addressing a lack of emotional development resources in schools, giving opportunities for 8-12 year old boys to express their emotions with themselves and their peers. 

Type: Educational Resource

Context: Masculinity, Education, Healthcare

Team: Evie Cheung, Zihan Chen, Sophie Carillo-Miranda, and Hannah Rudin

Guidance: Cordy Swope

 

Description:

Our Being A Boy booklet provides access for adolescent boys to express and explore their emotions through facilitated activities that inspire young men to challenge hypermasculinity while interacting with peers. Being A Boy fills a growing need for emotional education in the current state of sexual education in the United States, because we believe access to emotional health services are as important as physical health services.

 
 

Impact:

Boys are taught from a young age to be tough and conceal their emotions. These pressures and suppressions cause significant damage to the health of adolescents, leading to acts of violent toward each other and women to maintain particular reputations, in addition to self shaming and suicide. The Being A Boy booklet targets the root of this issue by creating designated time during school for boys 8-12 to safely express their emotions via interactive and collaborative activities. The exercises challenge boys’ current understanding of what society deems to be ‘manly’ and empowers them to become agents for themselves so they have more freedom to decide their role in society. Our aim is for schools to use Being A Boy Booklet as a tool and an outlet for young boys, that will ultimately lead to less violence towards peers, less emotional shame, and lower suicide rates as they grow older. 

Audience:

Initial prototypes gave young boys agency to identify ubiquitous examples of sexism in mainstream media sources. Insights from sexual educations instructors kept us honest, explaining how hypermasculinity causes young boys to mimic behaviors they do not truly understand. We decided to step back and focus on ways that we could teach young boys about sexism, ultimately realizing that boys needed a safe way to explore empathy, friendship, and role modeling with their peers. 

 
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Research:

In a team of five designers, we employed a human-centered approach to building the Being a Boy assets. Interviews and participatory research were primary methods for gathering insights about the current state of sexual education within classrooms and how social pressures create barriers between students, instructors, and families. Speaking with a range of educational and healthcare professionals and field research and interviews with teenage boys defined our motivations. Their feedback encouraged us to continue pursuing resources that resisted masculinity, and their honesty pushed us to change our target audience to a younger age group. 

 
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Collaboration:

Generating ideas around key "How Might We..." questions helped us build on interview insights without being attached to one particular direction. After a few hundred sketches, we narrowed our thoughts into a digestible bunch, and investigated them through a series of prototypes.