Jules Gaskin-West ’24

Tyler Street Lab, Pittsfield, MA

This summer, I had the privilege of working with Shirley Edgerton, board member of the Tyler Street Lab and Pittsfield Public School District’s Proficiency Coach, curating summer curriculum in the arts for low-income elementary school students in the area. It was my every intention to use this opportunity to do research in adultification, specifically in Black and brown girls being raised in low socio-economic environments. Adultification is defined by Georgetown Law as believing Black girls “need less nurturing, protection, support and comfort than white girls of the same age, and that Black girls are more independent, know more about adult topics, and know more about sex than white girls” as early as age five. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is only exacerbated by being raised in poverty, resulting in children being exposed to more adult threats and situations like food and housing insecurity, as well as other concerns that children of more stable environments do not experience. It was my intention to use the programming that I curated over the summer to try to understand if Black girls who are in the midst of the adultification process knew how to interact with safe spaces, and to explore the results of being socialized to be more adult when these girls are interacting with spaces that allow for grace and innocence.

Jules Gaskin-West in a group photo.During a job shadow at an after-school program I did with Ms. Edgerton in the spring, I met an amazing, energetic girl who struggled during activities that were less active, and she would refuse to participate and cause disruptions during these activities. It was later revealed that she struggled with ADHD and that activities made it extremely difficult for her to retain concentration, so much so that she disliked things like art entirely. I tried to keep her experiences in mind when developing my own curriculum, making it as active and engaging as possible and incorporating the games that students enjoyed during the spring program into the lessons about art. Unfortunately, I was not able to conduct the research that I wanted or access the space as much as I originally thought I would. I also encountered some challenges in advertising our program, which was disappointing. I was only really able to utilize one of the lessons I’d planned when I went to a program that one of my peers hosted, but it was still really valuable to see how much the kids enjoyed the program that I was able to share with them, even if it wasn’t what I initially intended.

Despite the summer not panning out the way I originally anticipated, I was still able to make the most of the opportunity in another way. I was able to learn a lot about making curriculum decisions that are more inclusive/sensitive for children who struggle with attention deficiency issues. Thank you to the ’68 Center for giving me the opportunity to pursue the work that I was able to accomplish this summer.