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What is body image?

Class culture | Food and me | What is body image? | Who says so? | Culture and body image

Suggested learning outcomes

Students will:

  • describe feelings, beliefs, and other factors that have the potential to influence their self-image (3A4);
  • share ideas and beliefs and develop an understanding of the concept of body image (3A1 and 4).

Underlying concepts

Hauora (particularly taha wairua and taha hinengaro): Acknowledging the influence of body image perceptions on well-being.

Attitudes and values: Acknowledging and accepting the diversity of body images.

Possible learning activities

What mask will I wear?

The students construct a mask that is as similar to their face as possible. They then decorate their mask in a way that is special to them, that says something about them as a person, and that they are happy to wear. When the masks are complete, the students share the reasons for their choice of decoration.

  • Ask the students: "Why or when do people wear masks?" Explore the use of masks as part of cultural rituals. Other reasons for wearing masks could include hiding their face because of scarring, disguising themselves, or pretending to be someone else.
  • Discuss with the students whether they think that our society sometimes tries to make us wear masks, explaining that the mask, in this case, might not be a real (actual) one but a way of being or behaving that is based on the way other people think we should look and be. For example, what people think is an "ideal" size, shape, or way of behaving because of fashion, traditional views, or cultural expectations. During the discussion, bring out the view that we often change our appearance to satisfy other people, not ourselves.

Display the students' masks in a public place in the school alongside a book display that gives information about making and wearing masks.

Who defines you?

Write the words "Body Image" on the board and ask the students to discuss what they think "body image" means and what influences people's ideas about their bodies. Accept all their responses. In the discussion, draw on all the activities that the students have undertaken so far, such as:

  • responding to the graffiti sheets and the postbox;
  • exploring similarities and differences;
  • constructing feathers for the korowai;
  • developing their understanding of hauora;
  • identifying the relationships between food and hauora;
  • exploring their individual characteristics.

Ask the students "Who decides the way you should look – you or other people?" and "What aspects of your body image do you have choices about?" The following activities, Who Says So? and Culture and Body Image, will continue to develop the students' understanding of the influences on body image.

Teachers' notes

Teachers need to emphasise that having a positive body image means:

  • being comfortable about the way we look;
  • feeling good about the way we look;
  • accepting diversity in the ways that other people look;
  • having the confidence to meet new people, work with them, and make good friends without being worried about the way we look;
  • confidently taking on new challenges, regardless of the way we look.

Resources needed include:

  • a variety of colouring and craft materials to decorate masks;
  • a mirror;
  • mask-building materials.

Consider cost, time, and practicability when selecting materials. These could be modelling materials, such as gauze and plaster of Paris, papier mâché, polystyrene, or foam (which can have shapes cut into it).


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