On a Friday night, over pizza and juice boxes, while visiting my longtime friend Kelli and her son, we asked our children, ages 5 and 11, what they would like to do if they had their own "club". Their answers proved to be inspiring and from that we literally launched a business. We felt destined to create something unique and extraordinary for our kids and knew that if our kids loved it, so would others.
Armed with a degree from UCLA in education, years of teaching both preschool and elementary school and directing a preschool, Kelli started gathering the data and doing the research. With the mindset of everything coming from the heart, Kelli ultimately put together the exoskeleton of a much needed studio offering art and science for children, boys and girls of a cross section of ages. My degree from Marymount California University in Early Childhood Education and years of teaching preschool provided the foundation to create Genius Kids Club with Kelli.
We absolutely knew that we wanted a space where all children could explore, test out theories, express their identity and figure things out for themselves. We had found the key to our new business and now it was time to unlock the door.
The door to the studio was officially unlocked and opened for business on Monday, August 22 with open houses in the days preceding. Genius Kids Club was welcomed into the Studio City community with open arms; parents expressing their thanks at providing a "club" that every child was welcome to join. There are classes every day for ages 10 months to 10 years. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are art days with Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday featuring science. Sunday is a combination of both art & science.
The true joy of having a business where the clientele are children means it's chalk full questions and every day is filled with a plethora of teachable moments. Just when you think you know something, along comes a child to show you how to look at it differently. Be it the clients or one of our own, Kelli and I have learned that the collective of children's thinking is changing and since opening the studio, the kids have made it clear that art and science are not mutually exclusive nor gender specific. While primarily there is a balance of boys and girls in each of the classes, it is still an ongoing campaign to encourage girls to participate in science. Science camps have experienced a larger enrollment of boys so everyone is experiencing the idea of a gender specific genre such as science. Genius Kids Club strives everyday to not have gender labels when is comes to art and science. Whether they are painting mugs as a gift for their parents or wanting to find out the chemical reaction between and a base and an acid, there are girls and boys sitting at our tables with their aprons and science goggles on, anxiously awaiting what's next.
Bet you're thinking "how do you do science with an 10 month old?" Science is simply the study of the world through observation and experiment. Looking, noticing and trying. That is exactly what we do with these precious babies and that is the way they are figuring out absolutely everything. The basis is to work with their 5 senses and how they use those senses to understand all that is around them.
Now the 3 - 10 year olds, they are all about the mess, the bigger the better and and the motto is "Bring It On!" Be it a girl or a boy, making a mess and not getting trouble for it is AWESOME! Recently there was an experiment (an acid, a base and a little red food coloring) with some kids and unexpectedly, the experiment wasn't doing what it was supposed to do, the container was opened at the precise moment that all its contents exited with intense velocity and suddenly the studio was covered with goo! The squeals of laughter, the questions that followed and on why that happened facilitated a discussion with the kids ultimately proving once again that they are listening and very curious and want to explore. Of course using a mop to clean up the ceiling was memorable for all there and an experience like no other.
At Genius Kids Club, every kid has a place to explore, to discover and ask their questions. Kelli and I have created a space specifically for kids, where parents can confidently drop their little ones off and know that they will be having a discussion on the way home using words like chemistry, polymers, acid, bases, among other things.
We sincerely LOVE what we're doing everyday, and look forward to expanding and reaching out to more and more kids. We truly believe that there is a little genius in every child just waiting to show the world what they can do!
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.