At-home learning for girls and teens: Self-esteem and positive identity

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As school closures continue across the state and students prepare to complete their academic school year at home, families and teens are searching for at-home activities to engage in. During these times of heightened uncertainty, it is especially important to prioritize the wellness and continuous learning of children and teens. YW Boston’s youth leadership program for middle school girls, the F.Y.R.E. Initiative, focuses on developing healthy self-esteem and positive self-identity. As part of this program, participants engage in an “identity mask” activity during session three, “Identity: Race and Gender.” The goal of this session is for girls to reflect on and recognize the role of identity and self-esteem in one’s overall health and wellbeing. YW Boston would like to share F.Y.R.E.’s Identity Mask activity with our community and invite girls and teens to try this activity at home, either individually or with their parents or friends.

Identity Masks Activity from the F.Y.R.E. Initiative’s Session #3: Identity: Race and Gender

Growth and self-love are two out of seven key values of the F.Y.R.E. Initiative, and they are the basis of the identity masks activity. A flame only becomes lit when a spark is ignited. This expression serves as the namesake for Fierce Youth Reigniting Excellence (F.Y.R.E.). F.Y.R.E. Initiative seeks to ignite the spark within youth that allows them to advocate for themselves, discover their leadership potential, and build community with other young leaders. F.Y.R.E. Initiative is looking to help facilitate a positive increase or change in attitude for young women. That would be demonstrated through the student’s actions such as responsible decision making, healthy relationship, and boundary building, self-management as well as social and self-awareness.

Suggested Materials
  • Assorted magazines to build a collage 
  • Scissors 
  • Glue 
  • Construction paper or cardstock 
  • Markers, pens, and a notebook or paper for journaling 

(If you prefer working with digital mediums, consider creating your identity mask using free graphic design software such as Canva or PicMonkey.)

Pre-Activity Reflection
Key Vocabulary
  1. Race: A social construct that refers to groups of people who have differences and similarities in physical traits (skin color, bone structure, hair texture, etc.) deemed by society to be socially significant, (e.g. White, Black, Asian, Indigenous/Native American, Multiracial)   
  1. Gender Identity:  A person’s internal sense of self as man, woman, both or neither    
  1. Gender Expression: Tthe way in which a person expresses their gender identity, typically through their appearance, dress, and behavior. Gender norms vary among cultures and over time.   
  1. Identity:  Identity is the qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and/or expressions that make up a person or group. Categorizing identity can be positive or destructive.   
  1. Intersectionality:  A framework that recognizes that aspects of identity such as race, class, sexual orientation, age, religion, and disability, do not exist separately from each other but are interwoven together and exponentially impact the experience of systemic advantage and disadvantage.   
  1. Stereotype:  A trait and/or characteristic assumed to be true of all members of a particular social group. Many American cultural practices and public policies are rooted in racial, gendered, and class-based stereotypes, such as “Asians are the model minority.”   
  1. Value:  A person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.  
Reflection Question

Identity is the condition of being oneself or itself, and not another; it is the way in which a person chooses to represent themselves and how people perceive you–people will interact with you based on who they think you are. In your journal, reflect on and answer the following question: What are three types of personal identities?

Identity Masks Activity

Step 1: Begin by drawing the outline of a face in construction paper or cardstock. You may also use this blank template.


Step 2: Cut out pictures and words from magazines and use them to fill out your identity mask. When choosing what to paste into your mask, think about the following:

  • I am a __________ girl. (What do people assume about me?) 
  • What do I want people to know about me that they don’t currently know?  
  • What do I care about? 
  • What do I see in my future? 
  • What am I afraid of? 
  • What makes me unique? 
Post-Activity Reflection

Take a minute to review your finished identity mask. Why did you choose these words or photos to identify you? Using your notebook, reflect on and answer the following questions: 

  • What is one thing you learned about your identity today?  
  • What are some of your intersectional identities? What are some of the stereotypes based on your identities? 
  • How would you like to transform how people see you? 

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We would love to see your identity masks and receive feedback about this activity. Share your masks with us by tagging @yw_fyre and @ywboston on Instagram. If you wish to engage with other lessons from the F.Y.R.E. Initiative, we suggest reading this blog post about building healthy relationships.

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About YW Boston’s F.Y.R.E. Initiative

With the F.Y.R.E. Initiative, launched in the Fall of 2019, YW Boston facilitators conduct a 12-15-week leadership development series for girls grades 6th through 9th. The series brings together social justice education, positive identity development, and civic engagement, culminating in small group civics projects. This model takes place in schools or Out of School Time programs, and it is developed to operate in a “girls group” structure rather than a traditional classroom structure. Core to the program is an effort to provide experiential learning opportunities and dialogue to build understanding and increase social-emotional learning.

Are you F.Y.R.E.’d up? If you wish to participate in YW Boston’s F.Y.R.E. Initiative or want to learn more about bringing the program to your school or community, please contact TiElla Grimes, F.Y.R.E. Initiative Program Manager, at tgrimes@ywboston.org.