Ever heard of The Famous Five? Agnes Macphail? Kim Campbell?
Ask any high school student and chances are the answer will be a blank stare.
There is a PROBLEM
The heroic stories of women in Canada’s history -- women who’ve personally sacrificed so much to secure the rights of women and children -- are curiously absent from the textbooks. Where are those role models for young girls (and boys!)?
BC teachers are frustrated by this omission and their lack of resources to remedy the problem.
There is a SOLUTION
Fun, Accessible, Creative, Informative, INSPIRING!
What is Dancing Backwards?
Dancing Backwards is an educational program and an online library, rich with video stories about women in politics told through the lens of elementary, middle and high school students.
When complete, it will be an accessible, grade-relevant website loaded with content about Canadian women whose stories are not, to date, part of the British Columbia school curriculum.
Specifically, the website will be an online library of videos created by students and made available to teachers and students worldwide for reference. Small student groups will each create a 3-minute story, in any medium they wish, about one woman from Canada's political history. They will present their stories to the class, we will film the presentations and choose the strongest to be included on the Dancing Backwards website.
We are currently in the middle of the pilot phase involving four schools in Victoria B.C.
We Need Your Help!
Please help spread the word about this important project!
• Share our campaign video with your friends on Facebook
• Tweet the campaign to educators and politicians using #dancingbackwards
• Share photos of class presentations on Instagram using #dancingbackwards
Our financial need is $45,000 which covers strategy, administration, management, website design, video editing, and much more (see all the details below). Every dollar counts and we appreciate anything you are able to send our way!
"The purpose of this educational pilot project is to inspire young girls and boys about the importance of leadership, the need to vote, and to engage in politics," Sandy Mayzell, founder of Dancing Backwards.
I'm a professional filmmaker, and for the past three years I’ve been working on a big-picture online project called, "Dancing with the Octopus: Women and politics in Canada and Beyond" (DWtO). Its primary goal is to encourage conversation about women's involvement in politics - to get our voices heard and our needs reflected in government policy, and to encourage equal partnership with men. The secondary goal is to address youth apathy; I believe that it is critical to engage young women and girls to think about leadership and political participation by providing role models and sharing stories.
Through my work I have been visiting classrooms and am shocked at how oblivious and apathetic most students are regarding politics, particularly when it comes to the crucial but challenging role of women in politics. I’ve also been struck by how quickly these attitudes change when students join me in conversation and watch my video clips of political women in action. I’ve observed a monumental shift as they become totally receptive to this new information.
Meanwhile, I discovered the book “Dancing Backwards: A Social History of Canadian Women in Politics,” by former Senator Sharon Carstairs and Tim Higgins (Heartland Associates), about the women who are missing from the fabric of our social and political history.
That’s when it clicked: there had to be a way to get young women and men involved in recapturing these stories, and thus inviting them to begin seeing and exercising their own political potential.
An approach took shape: using DWtO’s media/outreach and Sharon’s book as a resource, we’d get a peer-learning process going in schools. I ran the idea by school trustees and teachers and they loved it.
Your help is needed to make it work! You can help girls become leaders and actively engage in their own future.
How it works:
I visit each of four classes in Victoria B.C. three times. The first visit is like a pep rally – I get the students psyched up about women and politics, showing upbeat video clips, explaining the assignment and showing by example how the contribution of a forgotten political hero might be portrayed. Students take part in a survey on general knowledge of politics past and present and discuss their future engagement in voting and the political path.
To kickstart the research process, DWtO donates a copy of the comprehensive "Dancing Backwards: A Political and Social History of Women in Canada” book as well as “100 Canadian Women Heroines” and “100 More Canadian Women Heroines” (courtesy of Dundurn Press) to each class.
Students then take a couple of weeks (timing to be scheduled with the teacher) to research and prepare a short presentation (3 minutes or less) telling the story of the contribution of one politically influential woman from Canada's history.
Working in small groups, the students choose any form of storytelling they wish - costumed skit, short oral presentation, poetry writing and performance, puppet show, drawings/graphic novel format, a painting with explanation, short video, and so on. During this time, I'll return to each class to shoot video of the process -- the class as they prepare their work.
Students present their content in class, with advice and support from our interns. These presentations will be video-captured and edited by the DWtO team. A selection of the videos will be edited and posted to launch the Dancing Backwards website, forming the basis of an ever-growing, comprehensive, online library for use by other schools.
The plan is to create a survey procedure to track the project’s impact over a period of years, particularly voting patterns and engagement with politics.
This pilot project directly involves about 150 students, male and female, elementary to high school, and a handful of university-age interns.
Please note: As a professional filmmaker I understand due diligence in all aspects of filming as well as providing legal appearance/copyright parental permission releases for signature.
Dancing Backwards addresses important issues.
Though 52% by population, women hold just 25% of the seats in federal government. More balanced representation is vital for the sake of equity and innovation, so it’s crucial that we inspire more young women to enter public life, and (a related goal) more young people in general to cast their votes. (The youth vote in 2011 was a paltry 39%.)
To help overcome apathy and self-doubt, girls (and boys too) need models, but many important models – women who have overcome obstacles to help build this country, and secure the rights we enjoy – are absent from the history books and the curriculum.
Dancing Backwards has great potential because it is replicable: the library will grow with contributions from all over British Columbia and eventually nationally. It will be a unique example of a peer-learning model.
Students benefit in several ways. Dancing Backwards:
• kickstarts creative thinking about getting more women into the decision-making process,
• gives students experience and confidence presenting creative ideas to a group (the beginnings of honing public speaking skills),
• offers fun while learning how to research and uncover a hidden part of Canadian history,
• exposes young boys to the idea of equal participation by all constituents, building respect for the contribution of women,
• gives credit value to women's contribution in this country,
• adds to knowledge base both politically and historically,
• inspires girls to become involved in the political process, and at the very least, to vote.
• Plus, participants learn about our political past while taking a first step towards political engagement. They have the excitement of seeing their own creative storytelling online, while gaining the confidence to express and take credit for their own ideas. Girls especially take inspiration from encounters with strong women of the past – with Doris Anderson, say, who in 1979 worked for the inclusion of women’s rights in the Constitution and the Charter, or Nellie McClung, who in 1914 created a mock parliament asking, “Why should men have the vote?” These thrilling examples make today’s obstacles seem less daunting, and dramatize the worthiness of taking on the challenge of political action. All students, male and female, experience the importance of their political rights, and the value of protecting and exercising them. Also benefiting are the interns, and the many students who participate simply as viewers.
• In short, this program enables students to teach each other about equality. How amazing is that?
Teachers also benefit from the project:
• instant access to a wealth of material about women in Canadian political history
• it supports teachers in creating lesson plans for Social Studies classes
• it gives them context with which to provide relevance to lessons about current issues and personalities
• it encourages an understanding of gender equality at all ages
We are a creative hub for conversation about women and politics. Our Dancing with the Octopus (DWtO) eight program streams, or “tentacles,” include a regular newsletter, a web site, a webisode series, a documentary, a blog, and live presentations. We use various forms of dynamic storytelling, always with a dash of humour, to engage and inspire people of differing demographics.
The Dancing Backwards project is typical of our approach: fun, inclusive, educational, expansive. It is our newest tentacle!
For your information, DWtO exists is under the auspice of a non-profit charitable organization, Educating Toward Change Society (ETC).
What We Need
There was so much interest in Dancing Backwards after initial conversations with local schools that I decided to start the project in early 2013. In order to do so, I financed the early project work myself. I need your help to continue with the pilot project, see it to completion and begin the expansion to reach out to more schools.
Our budget for the pilot is $45,000 and here is what it covers:
• a minimum of 12 school visits, including initial workshop facilitation
• research and project management, including recruiting and supervising interns, scheduling, hiring crew, legal wrangling, and school liaison
• website design, creation and ongoing maintenance
• content research and copywriting for website
• creative support and guidance during class time while students prepare their presentations
• video crew to record the student presentations and Dancing Backwards process
• video editors to edit the student presentations, classroom workshop material
• creation of teacher study guides to continue the process beyond the pilot phase
• development of a business plan for the future of the project
• social media strategy and management
• public relations / communications plan and implementation
• creation of a pitch page, including graphic design work and short promotional video
Other Ways You Can Help
Even if you cannot contribute financially, there are many ways in which you can help:
• Please spread the word about our campaign!
• Use the Indiegogo share tools!
• Write a blog post for the Dancing with the Octopus website
• If you would like to be involved in the creation and implementation of the statistical survey portion of this project, please contact us.
• If you live in Victoria B.C. and are a university student in education, political science, communications, women’s studies or theatre, passionate about women and politics, and are looking for an opportunity to get involved with this pilot project (spring/summer 2013), please contact me: Sandy@DancingWithTheOctopus.com
You can help girls become leaders and actively engage in their own future.
Thank you so much!