Rainbow Clubs are elementary versions of what are often known as GSAs, or Gender and Sexuality Alliances. Many schools across the country are implementing versions of the Rainbow Club to support younger students and their diverse families.
We will share the process for creating a K-5 Rainbow Club with an important note: we are both teachers in progressive schools that are committed to social justice topics. We have supportive administration and active LGBTQ family communities. At the end of this post, we will share links to data on the effectiveness of GSAs and ways to bring this work to schools that haven't begun gender inclusive work or that have less supportive communities.
Step 1: Get the principal on board
This is the most important step because it will be incredibly challenging to get a club like this going at a school without the support of the administration.
Here is the email I sent to our school's principal to float the idea:
I would love to launch a Rainbow Club at ________ this year. It is basically an Elementary school version of a GSA. My idea is to host the club in my room once a month, on the last Friday of the month from about 8:30-9:15am. It would be open to anyone - kids who identify as LGBTQ+, kids with families who are LGBTQ+, allies who support their friends and families. We would read books, do art activities, help plan morning announcements or make sure school events are inclusive. I would definitely invite family support, and another teacher's support as well. I don't think we would need a budget yet, but we could host a small fundraiser if we needed it. I've never done one before but always wanted to. Let me know what you think!
I sent this email knowing I would most likely get my principal's full support - and I did. For many teachers, this step will be much harder to achieve. See the support section at the end of the post for more ideas to get principals on board.
Step 2: Decide who will plan, organize and host each meeting
We would suggest finding a teacher to co-plan and facilitate with. Ideally this would be someone in the building that you already have a strong relationship with and that is also engaged in equity work in the classroom. It would be ideal, of course, to have at least one of the hosts identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, whether they are out to students or not.
We are hosting our Rainbow Club in a classroom. At your school this may work best in a library space, or other room in the school. We planned to use a classroom so that we have all of the supplies and books at the ready.
We picked to have our Rainbow Club happen once a month because that is what felt doable at our site. Our school begins later than most, so we chose to host our meetings on Fridays before school so that children from before-care could come, as well as families that could make it to school early. We felt like so many families at our school had after-school commitments that before school meetings work best for our community.
We are planning 45 minute meetings.
First 15 minutes: Play (we hope this will allow students and families to trickle in slowly and build community)
Next 15 minutes: Read Aloud/Discussion
Last 15 minutes: Activity/Action
Step 3: Get the word out!
We had students make posters to hang around the school. This way the students felt ownership and the posters were more engaging!
We also sent out an email for the school newsletter. Here is what it said:
This month ________ will have its very first meeting of the Rainbow Club. Rainbow Clubs are Elementary School versions of a GSA (Gender Spectrum Alliance) used nationwide. This year, _________ will be hosting and organizing a monthly Rainbow Club for LGBTQ+ students, LGBTQ+ families and all allies. The meetings will be held on the third Friday morning of the month, from 8:30am-9:15am in ________. The first meeting will be on Friday, October 18th! Each meeting will have time for students and families to play and connect, a read aloud, and an activity or action. Rainbow Club is open to all LGBTQ+ students and families, as well as student allies. Students may come without their families, but families are always welcome to join. Please email ________ with any questions: _________________
Finally, students made morning announcements giving reminders about the club. Each time we made it clear who the meetings are intended for, while also explicitly saying that all are welcome to join.
Step 4: Host the first meeting
We had our first meeting yesterday and it went incredibly well! Students loved coming in and playing with legos, a marble run, and blocks with mixed age peers. Some families joined in the play, while others made time to connect. We read books and talked about how colors, clothes and costumes don't have a gender. Then students and families made posters to hang around the school!
Need more support?
- If you are worried about getting administration on board, it might help to find a like-minded teacher or family member as an ally.
- We spoke to one teacher who was able to start a Rainbow Club after meeting with their principal and agreeing to call it by a different name. It's okay to get creative to get this off the ground!
-If you're worried about admin or family pushback, this guide might help.