Elementary School Uses Nature to Teach Gender Diversity

Clownfish are examples of species that go from male to female. Photo via Nikolaj Schmidt.

This week the children of Redwood Heights Elementary School of Oakland, California were introduced to gender diversity using examples of gender variety in nature. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the lessons included descriptions of animals such as the transgendered clownfish and all female gecko groups.

The lesson was devised by the Gender Spectrum trainer, Joel Baum, whose goal was to use the examples to provide students with a variety of sexual activities that occur in nature. The lesson was one hour long, and the nature discussion was targeted to fourth and fifth grade students. The school adopted the curriculum in attempts to address issues of bullying and discrimination within the school.

Parents were given advanced notice of the lessons, but were not given the ability to “opt out” as they are with most sexual education training. A few parents did indicate they would be keeping their children home from school to avoid the lessons. Conservative groups have expressed outrage that the lessons emphasized that nature has “more than two choices” when it comes to animal sexuality. School officials maintain that gender instruction is part of minimizing risk to students and promoting diversity. The state of California requires schools to implement specific plans to address student safety in relation to conflicts stemming from gender issues and sexual orientation.