After-School Programs Combating ‘Mean Girls Syndrome’

By Nora Fleming — February 23, 2012 1 min read
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A teacher in Minnesota is using an after-school program to try to combat girls’ cliquey behavior in middle school, or what she and others call “mean girls syndrome,” reports an article this week.

Lisa Torbenson, a candidate for Minnesota’s teacher of the year, says the idea for the all-girls after-school program spun from realizing how present backstabbing, gossiping, exclusion, and other negative behavior was in girls’ peer groups, particularly in the middle years.

“I wasn’t going for the group of girls without friends, but the ones who do have friends, but they’re in constant stress because of the drama that the girl world brings,” she says in the article. “I thought, I can guarantee you that the majority of these girls in big cliques are not in healthy friendships.”

Although she originally started it as a discussion group, Torbenson quickly changed course when girls weren’t showing up. The after-school program was then refocused to use enrichment activities to resonate key themes on subjects like harmful gossip. The “disguised learning” approach has been very effective, she reports.

The all-girls after-school environment has also been seen to yield positive impacts elsewhere. You may remember my article from last month on Techbridge, an all-girls after-school program in the Bay Area focused on STEM. Another story out this week says a program in Newark, N.J., is seeing similar results.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Beyond School blog.