The GAINKids project aims to suggest to kindergarten teachers some paths, not only didactic and methodological, that can be a stimulus for the child’s creativity in the framework of its perception as a human being on earth: how can we conceive ourselves in harmony with the natural and social environment in a conscious and respectful way of our neighbors, in all their physiological and cultural diversity? How to be an active part of society from an early age with the awareness that this commitment one day, when we become ”grown up”, can be translated into social and political change? Starting from this assumption, the theme of ”gender identity and equality” is logically linked to the other four themes of GAINKids, directly inspired by the priorities indicated by the ‘Global Citizenship Education” as they have been defined by the European Commission and proposed by UNESCO. At the center of everything, in fact, there is the human person who must always tend
to be in harmony with nature and its neighbor wherever they is, overcoming barriers and stereotypes that have nothing to do with respect and dignity of
each beyond the gender, the chosen religion, the culture of origin, the countless psycho-physical differences of each. The events occurred a few months after the start of the project, make GAINKids even more relevant because in the meantime the exploitation of nature, beyond any limit if not that of the profit of a few, have put us in front of the consequences of spill-over or pandemic. More recently, geopolitical events have brought us face to face, again, with the inability to prevent entirely ”human” phenomena such as conflicts, the clash between divergent economic interests and the hoarding of natural resources: the cure, once again, cannot focus only on the”symptom” nor can war be.
In the story constructed together with the children on gender identity and equality, it was decided to use the metaphor of nature, with examples taken from animal behavior that really exist, precisely because all the disequilibria mentioned above, including gender inequality, are the result solely and exclusively of humans. Since these are historical and cultural processes, as they were born and have evolved and have been ”chronicled”, in the same way they can be modified, improved or deleted, and the sooner we start with this awareness, the more we can guarantee the final result. Several studies on gender inequality, in fact, show that as early as 20 months of age the child has already structured stereotypes, role expectations that will flow a few months later into behavioral paths and thought patterns that will become real mental cages.
The theme of gender identity and equality can be addressed separately, dividing two concepts that can have their own value, even taken in isolation, or in close correlation with each other. Identity in turn can also be distinguished from the area in which it can be applied, in this case gender. By gender we mean everything that pertains to the person in terms of roles, social expectations related to them, behavioral profiles that can be learned on a cultural level: it can be summarized by grouping everything that goes beyond a sexual-physiological distinction and can therefore be learned, introjected consciously or unconsciously on a strictly cultural and cognitive level. Without trespassing on the many possible variants of the concept of gender up to its overcoming in terms of choices of sexual orientation, here we limit ourselves to the macro-categories of gender, woman-man. What is instead common to the two terms and is closely related to the other four themes of GAINKids is the concept of ”respect” that we wanted to emphasize in the development of the story on the theme of gender: regardless of gender, the human person who ”interprets” it is worthy of respect. Therefore, what must be emphasized is first of all the dignity of the person behind the role regardless of gender. Since we are dealing with students from 3 to 6 years old, that is small but unfortunately already strongly oriented in their judgments, we can first of all start from the stereotypes related to one or the other gender, which can be linked to positive or negative value judgments, or “undesirability”. Returning to the concept of dignity and positive value of the person in and of itself, the role of care played by a “dad” in addition to breaking, namely, a stereotypical role, is addressed precisely in terms of respect. The metaphor of nature, which is often mistakenly borrowed to classify a specific role or behavior as “normal” or, vice versa, “against nature”, allows us to present to the child as completely “natural” that specific behavior: the hippocampus dad who takes care of the children represents a role that nature itself has entrusted to him because it is functional to a good that is above all else, life and, even before that, survival. Nature itself becomes a tool to counter stereotypes because it is from nature that examples can be taken.
With the adventure of the penguin who somehow carries on a shared paternity/maternity, we have the opportunity to address the issue of respect for the role of the father. The child, through the fable, realizes that the figure of the father can be much more central than the space, often limited only to the procurement of sources of livelihood (work, earnings) that is socially attributed to him.
At the same time, the message is conveyed that the two roles are perfectly interchangeable and that neither is less important than the other: the very fact that a life is born from the egg to which both figures have contributed makes the child aware of the centrality of both. Similarly, once life is born, even in its earliest stages, it can be taken care of by a father figure, as in the case of the hippocampus. In the story, the seahorse acquires its own dignity and respect, and precisely because in human societies the role of primary care is delegated almost entirely to the woman, this real-life example in the story familiarizes the child with the “normality” of the exchange of roles between man and woman.