Last spring, while Lani Silversides, Instructor in Mathematics, hosted a group playdate for her daughter with other elementary school girls, she began to photograph the children while they played. Bringing out footballs and baseball bats, she attempted to capture the moment of the children frolicking on the Great Lawn.
“I was able to show them, through photographs, that it’s okay to be you [and to] just come in your most comfortable clothes to just play and be active,” said Silversides.
The photos she took that day became the basis of a book called “My Strong is Beautiful” that Silversides released last spring. She said she wrote the book to inspire girls to be active.
Now, as a continuation of the “My Strong is Beautiful” project, Silversides has created a new program called “Strong Girls,” which she hopes will help spark an early love for sports and physical activity in girls that will carry on into teenage years.
“[The program is an extension] from my book that I had written in the spring. [In the book] is a photo of a girl in action and a rhyming verse that goes with it. It’s all ‘I Can.’ I can run, I can jump, I can leap, I can climb. The sort of ‘tagline’ of this program is ‘I Can,’ ” said Silversides.
The program, which starts on October 14, emphasizes the importance of establishing a supportive and fun environment for girls to learn new skills and to build self-esteem, confidence and pride, according to Silversides.
“I’m going to teach them how to do a plank. And with that, we’ll also have a karate day. It connects core strength with karate. So, I’m going to teach them something new with some karate stances,” said Silversides.
She continued, “The life skill [that the girls will learn] is going to be something new. That’s something they can learn through the activity [they are doing] and for many of them, that’s a new thing… They’ll learn about teamwork without being told, ‘This is teamwork.’”
Silversides founded “Strong Girls” after she saw her young daughter, along with other children, begin to suppress the active and physical side of their personalities.
“I watched my own daughter and friends trying to navigate through some subtle discouragement that girls can face socially with respect to sports and being active, I decided to do something about it to show them all they can be strong and proud,” wrote Silversides in an email to The Phillipian.
Silversides hopes to eventually expand this program beyond Andover and elementary girls.
“Over the summer, I realized I really wanted to put everything into action in some way and I came up with this. It’s local right now, but my vision is to create a curriculum that would be accessible to other schools and other people,” said Silversides.
This year, Silversides’ Strong Girls program will be featured in the “Learning Lab” after school program at Bancroft Elementary School, which is sponsored by the school’s Parent Teacher Organization. The program will be available to kindergarten through second grade girls once a week for six weeks.
“[The program is] something that I think everyone can connect to. You might have a sister, a cousin, an aunt, a mom. It doesn’t have to be a girl who connects to it. Many people can appreciate it because they can connect to it in someway, because they know someone who’s active, and you think ‘hey, she’d be proud of that,’” Silversides continued.