When students see the drama "Masks" on a REAP retreat, they often desire to take down their masks and "get real". In order to do so, they must first recognize areas in their life where masks are present.
This activity will encourage each student to…
1. Recognize the masks he/she might wear
2. Recognize the masks that others put upon him/her
3. View other students with more compassion in regards to the masks they wear
Paper plates (Styrofoam will not work) and markers; magazines, scissors, glue (optional)
Teacher will remind students of the drama "Masks", presented on the REAP retreat. Teacher will explain to students the importance to being honest about the masks we all struggle with—how they are a normal, yet not an ideal part of human life. The teacher will start the explanation of the mask-making activity by stating that students will use the provided media (markers, magazine cut-outs, etc.) to decorate a mask (paper plate) that describes them individually. The outside of the paper plate represents the side that people see—including how we want people to view us (our "reputation") and how people label us. When most people think of us, this is what we believe they see. The inside of the mask includes who we really are—the aspects of our lives that many people don't know. This is the opportunity to be honest about things that most people may not know about us – past experiences that have formed us, family history, hobbies, interests, hopes, feelings and dreams. What are your deepest loves in life that few people know about? The mask does not need any facial features drawn or attached – just a bunch of symbols and words covering both the front and back of the mask.
Before allowing students to begin, it can be a very helpful for the teacher to show a sample mask of his/her own life, and explain. Therefore, it is good to prepare a mask of your own in advance. The mask can include current masks that you struggle with or ones that you dealt with when you were the age of your students. If you can be vulnerable at this time, it is very likely that your students will follow suit and the masks they create will be deeper and more meaningful.
Allow students about 20 to 25 minutes to complete their masks. As a conclusion, encourage students to share their masks in a small group or with the class, as the teacher has done on a volunteer basis. Evaluation should be done through discretion of the teacher. Evaluating students' participation and effort ensures that students do not feel you are "invading" private information by collecting each mask. Clearly articulate the evaluation process before students begin work on the mask so they don't feel uncomfortable if you choose to collect masks at the end of the activity.
Things for the outside of the mask –
1. The image/front I try to portray (tough, funny guy, cool, trendy, girly, mean, stupid, strong)
2. How I've been labeled by…
-Classmates (nerd, jock, prep, stuck-up, goth, druggie, smart, slut, prude, blonde, good two-shoes, etc.)
-Group of friends (quiet one, leader, jokester, etc.)
-Teachers/Parents/Adults (trouble-maker, perfect one, etc.)
-Family, by siblings or extended family members
-Where you live or go to school – are you in a wealthier or poorer part of town, etc.
3. What people typically know about what I do – sports I play, activities I do, strengths or weaknesses (soccer, piano, reading, dancing, video games, etc.)
4. What people think they know about my life – perfect family, strong in faith, happy all the time, etc.
Things for the inside of the mask –
1. What my personality is REALLY like, who I really am, how I act when I feel the most comfortable…(fun, lots to say, quiet, goofy, serious sometimes, etc.)
2. What I REALLY love to do that not everyone knows….(listen to oldies music, ride horses, swim, sing Disney songs, Lord of the Rings, play a certain sport, I don't like playing a certain sport, read, poetry, certain movies, plays, etc.)
3. What my life is REALLY like – family struggles, I have lots of questions about faith, I'm not always happy, I'm scared of future and nervous sometimes, etc.
Heather's Sample Mask, from her middle school years:
On the outside: People think I am shy, don't have much to say, am Kelley's little sister, the empty box is because some people think I don't have much of a personality, I wear trendy clothes, love to swim, and they think I love New Kids on the Block.
On the inside: I really love oldies music, I talk a lot around family and when I'm comfortable, I have a vibrant personality, love my older sister, family and Jesus. I get sad often because I feel so few people understand or care outside of my family.
Additional follow-up activities could include
- Brainstorming as to how masks can be removed (how the inside of the mask can also be the outside) in their lives, in the classroom, in the school.
- Writing personal "mission statements" or a short essay including "How I can start to remove the masks in my life…"
- Creative writing about masks that someone might wear—those that are dangerous, almost invisible, hurtful to others, etc.
- Media evaluation—favorite movies or TV shows where masks are present ("Grease" or "Mean Girls", for example). Have students write a paragraph on 3 or 4 movies or TV shows and the story of a "mask" being worn. In front of the class, each student could present one of his or her examples. As a starter to this activity, show a clip from a movie in class and encourage large-group discussion.