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Saint Ursula Academy Students Tackle Implicit Bias through Design Project

Implicit Bias Project

Saint Ursula Academy educators work to teach students more than what is in a textbook or required lesson. Yes, the basic knowledge is important, but they also want the girls to understand WHY they are learning something and how it applies to real life. This application and relevance helps students add meaning and depth to their work and projects. 

During a recent Design class project at Saint Ursula, three students joined their class in a project on the subject of implicit bias. Maddie Bambauer, Olivia Coughlin, and Edie Lynn captured their experience in a blog posted by Edie, called More Than Just Shapes. 

More Than Just Shapes
A project by Saint Ursula Academy students Maddie Bambauer, and Olivia Coughlin, and Edie Lynn, as told by Edie.

Over the last couple months my two friends and I have been working on a design campaign project revolving around implicit bias. Implicit biases are the preconceived judgements that humans make unknowingly. There are so many categories: race, gender, sexuality, etc. We narrowed it down and focused in on body image and how we may make judgements unknowingly (of ourselves and others) based on physical appearance.

To start off… here are some statistics we found:
• Over 50% of Americans aren’t happy with their current weight
• 80% of U.S. women don’t like the way they look
• 70% of normal weighted women want to be thinner
• Over 80% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat!!
• Over 50% of teen girls use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.
We were in denial when we read that more than 3/4 of the women in our population are unhappy with the way they look. We couldn’t believe that kids as young as 10 years old are scared of being fat. It all seemed like a lot, and Maddie, Liv, & I wanted to see if these statistics were true among our own community.

We decided to take it one step further at our high school and focus on women. We reached out to hundreds of teenaged girls and faculty to get their perspectives. We asked them to fill out a short survey. First, rate their body confidence on a scale of 1(bad)-10(good) and second, describe your body in one word or phrase. I guess when we sent this survey out we didn’t exactly know what to expect… we were just hoping that at least a few people would respond.

Despite our doubts, within an hour hundreds of completed surveys flooded our inbox.
We were shocked by the mass input that we received.

It was all smiles until we actually read what girls were writing. Yes, there were some positive responses, but the majority of the results were heartbreaking. Most responded with lower numbers and there were even some negatives. Descriptions of their bodies came in as “too fat, too skinny, okay but not perfect, thin but not toned, etc.” The amount of people unhappy with their bodies hit me hard.

Personally, I have struggled with my appearance for years. From a young age, I felt like I was never as “skinny” or “toned” as I wanted to be. My body was never good enough for my own expectations, and I found myself constantly wishing I had the “perfect body.” Before this survey, I would never have thought that this many people that I encounter every day are feeling the same way. It’s easy to scroll through social media unknowingly, compare yourself to others, and focus on your flaws. But too many people focus on their physical appearance rather than who they are as a person.

With this campaign we wanted to bring awareness to these implicit biases and focus on changing that body perspective. We made posters incorporating the individual responses we received from girls and hopefully will be displayed at the Cincinnati Museum Center. We want others to see these and realize that their worth is not based on physical appearance, and that people are more than just shapes.

“We are so proud of these girls for a job well-done and of their educator, Ms. Probst, for encouraging them to dig deep with their research to develop a project with a meaningful impact,” said Saint Ursula Academy Principal Dr. Mari Thomas. “We are thrilled to see these students being great examples of the school’s mission to be thinkers, leaders, nurturers and prophets who are committed to building a better world.”