Little Toasters Discover Girls Have No Limits!

Contributed by Gina Cabiddu and Kathryn Lupfer

At Little Toasters, third through fifth grade girls empower themselves by building their public-speaking skills. This program bolsters self- confidence, self-esteem, and develops an important leadership skill to “find their voice.” Another important component of Little Toasters is exposing girls to female role-models in male-dominated professions. This includes guest legislators, dentists, attorneys, park rangers, and Fortune 500 company Vice Group of girls holding Matchbox carsPresidents. So why these grades and why these girls? Classroom engagement, participation, and self confidence and self-esteem drop off for girls as they enter middle school compared to their male counterparts. Children’s Home Society of Washington began Little Toasters over a decade ago at one school and to date hundreds of girls are seeing they have no limits! This program has demonstrated being an effective anti-bullying technique, academic improvement tool, and bolsters aspirations of college and STEM field pursuits. Every week Little Toasters is held in 10 different elementary schools spanning Key Peninsula, Gig Harbor, and Belfair, Washington. At each session, the youth share in their groups their highs and lows of the week, enhance their vocabulary with a word of the day, make a craft or engage in an activity, and it all cumulates into a short speech about each week’s theme. For the month of February, Little Toasters were excited to partner with the No Limits Mini-Grant Project. This partnership with Mercedes Benz, Mattel, and National Girls Collaborative Project was a natural fit with the mission of Little Toasters: girls can do anything.

All 10 groups took part in the project. Each group began with utilizing the provided discussion guide by implementing an activity where youth identified which toys shown were “boy” toys and which were “girl” toys. This opened a dialogue of gender stereotypes. Some girls knew right away that anyone could play with any toy. Some Little Toasters hesitated though. They chose the “girl toy” to play with and listened to the others talk about their choices. One group had a guest; a little brother visited the Little Toasters. Interestingly, the young boy defended his choice of the stuffed animal to be a “boy toy” which created space for the Little Toasters to question their biases. This group had a lively debate which resulted in all of the children explaining that girls and boys could play with any toys they wanted; there was no such thing as a “girl” toy or a “boy” toy. Meanwhile, other groups had girls who immediately said, “it doesn’t matter what type of toy it is, anyone can play with it.” Facilitators were surprised and excited to see the girls’ level of understanding around gender stereotypes.  What was most surprising and heartwarming was as one of the Little Toasters referenced, they were “too woke” to think they were limited to certain types of toys. 

The real impact of this program was evident while watching a video of Ewy Rosqvist winning the Argentinian Grand Prix, a dangerous race in 1962. In the video, Ewy described the extremity of the race, claiming some racers had previously died participating. She explained only men raced and that nobody thought she could compete, so she Three girls sitting on the floor, lining up three matchbox carsfinished first. Not only that, she finished three hours ahead of the second-place racer! The girls watching the video were absolutely tickled at Ewy’s personality, ambition, and accomplishments. The Little Toasters’ faces lit into smiles and they repeated Ewy’s quote “Nobody thought I could do it, so I finished first.” The energy level rose in each room as comprehension dawned that a woman had done the unexpected. The Little Toasters in one group spontaneously began acting out the race, crawling on hands and knees as if their bodies were race cars. Other groups had girls jumping out of their seats waving their arms. It became clear to facilitators the Little Toasters had witnessed something spectacular and deeply meaningful.

After much effort to seat and calm the girls, the facilitators led each group in a short discussion about what feelings the video brought up. Reactions were all positive. During the discussion, the girls had wide eyes, large smiles, and one youth almost cried when she was given a toy replica of Ewy’s racecar as she was so moved to have a real connection to the history she got to witness. During and after the video showing, the girls talked excitedly amongst each other about how Ewy won the race a whopping three hours before anyone else saying they were “inspired.” When asked what struck that inspiration, one girl exclaimed “nothing is going to stop me” from pursuing her dream to be a pilot after watching the video. Another child exclaimed “Ewy won the race, that means that girls can do things that are really hard, and that other people think they can’t do.”

 

Logo for Children's Home Society of Washington. White C in Purple H, banners reads "since 1896"

Gina Cabiddu is the Community Manager of Children's Home Society of Washington where she oversees all programs, finances, and partnerships of the Key Peninsula branch. Kathryn Lupfer, Center Coordinator and Family Educator, facilitates programs including Little Toasters to encourage youth to build lasting positive relationships with peers and mentors and supports community engagement efforts of teen volunteers. CHSW was nominated for Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Non-Profit of the Year.

 

NGCP's partnership with Mercedes-Benz USA is tackling the issue of gender stereotypes and showing young girls they can aspire to be and do anything they desire. #GirlsHaveNoLimits. Via NGCP mini-grants, thousands of girls have been gifted a die-cast Matchbox replica of the Mercedes-Benz 220SE commemorating Ewy Rosqvist's historic 1962 Argentinian Grand Prix performance. Learn more about this initiative.