The activity “Identity Flower“ originates from the method box “Demokratie-Lernen und Anti-Bias-Arbeit”1. It was adapted as part of the WITH YOU*TH project and used in the school context with 8- to 9-year-olds, 13- to 14-year olds, and with groups of social and YOU*TH workers. The open character of the method has the advantage of allowing for very diverse groups.
The technique provides a basis for further work on gender diversity and relationships. It helps to reflect on one’s own (gender) identity as well as that of others. The flower design offers the possibilities for dealing with your self creatively. In addition, diversity becomes — literally — visible in an empowering rather than alienating manner.
Moreover, expectations and ideas that people face — either from themselves or their environment and society — and which are frequently characterized by gender-specific, stereotypical ascriptions can be addressed and discussed. Resulting from positive cooperation, this discussion aims at a greater acceptance of oneself and others and thus represents an important basis for the violence prevention. Due to its low threshold, the activity is suitable as an introduction to a single workshop or a series of workshops.
Europahaus Aurich/Anti-Bias-Werkstatt (Hrsg.): Übung Power Flower. In: CD-ROM Methodenbox: Demokratie-Lernen und Anti-Bias-Arbeit. Aurich, 2007; adaptiert im Rahmen des Projekts WITH YOU*TH. ↩︎
The technique can be used flexibly, but the group should not be too large. Groups of 3 to 20 people are ideal. If there are more than 20 participants, it makes sense to discuss the flowers in pairs (3 minutes per person) and to limit the discussion in a large group to reflection on the activity. While it is important to encourage participants to personalize their flowers, it is necessary to take into account that some may need more guidance, so bring enough copies of the templates with you.
“If you work in a school class with people with different backgrounds, gender identities and family structures, it can help to not only use white paper as basis in order to show the variety through different paper types and colours. Even, if we “only” create a flower, it does stand for one’s own identity, which is connected to different premises. Different papers as basis make this clear.”
The activity consists of four steps: introduction to the activity and its background, design of the flowers, discussion in pairs or a large group, and conclusion or reflection.
At the beginning, it is explained why identity flowers are designed and what the goals of the activity are. The introduction can be done as follows, but can be modified depending on the needs of the group:
“Today we’ll talk about a multitude of gender identities and how we can reflect on how different and individual we are. Sometimes it can be difficult to talk about yourself, so we’ll do this with the help of an identity flower. What is an identity flower? It is a flower that you are going to create today and that best represents you at this moment. You can use a blank sheet of paper as a starting point or, if you prefer, one of these templates. Now, you’ll design your flower. In the middle, you can write your name: whatever you want to be called in this group, at this moment. In each petal, you can write an aspect or a feature that is important to you, paint it, or design it with the other materials available here. You can think about the following: What do you like? What makes you who you are? Each petal stands for a feature that you give yourself. If the petals don’t suffice because you find so many things, you can, of course, also write all around them. Now, each person can look for a piece of paper and all the materials they need. Think about yourself, your hobbies, preferences, what you don’t like, your family, your friends, your gender identity, etc. Whatever you can think of — there is nothing right or wrong. Design your own flower: use the colours, materials, and languages you like. You have 20 minutes for this, but you shouldn’t rush. Have fun!”
Then the flowers are discussed either in pairs or in the whole group. Once again, it should be pointed out that the designed flowers are to be treated with respect.
“Furthermore, one can discuss what the flowers would have looked like, if they would not have been created for oneself but for another person. What would the correspondent flower have looked like? What attributions would have developed? Would something have been added, lost? This little intellectual game can bring new perspectives and can initiate a dicussion about self-attribution and attribution of others, and accordingly what it means to be categorized or how one scopes can be widened.”
In a subsequent discussion, it is important that features which are often perceived as negative are also allowed and can be discussed. Since no feature is “good” or “bad” per se, it is important to create an environment of respect. If the group dynamics allow, one can also talk about possible hurtful attributes.
Furthermore, the activity itself can be discussed based on the following questions:
How was the activity for you?
What was difficult?
What was surprising, new, or interesting?
In addition, it can be discussed how the flowers would have looked if they had not been designed for oneself but someone else. Trait attributions to oneself and possible attributions by others should only be expressed with regards to oneself. External attributions that are perceived as offensive and unpleasant can also become a topic for discussion.
“Especially for participants who do not want to present themselves as different or who feel uncomfortable or even ashamed because of their uniqueness, this activity offers the opportunities to discuss what makes us unique and how we respectfully share this uniqueness with a group of people, for example, in a class community which can be a space characterized by stress, rivalry, and time pressure.”