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Welcome to Dancing Backwards!

Congratulations on choosing a program that reinforces gender parity, celebrates women in leadership and promotes citizenship awareness.

Dancing Backwards is designed for students in grades 5 and up and satisfies many of the provincial social studies/history/art education curriculum criteria across the country (see our list of Learning Standards/Outcomes by Province). Students of this age range were chosen for their strong sense of fairness and justice and for their receptivity to ideas of equity and engagement.Dancing Backwards helps to show students that politics is significant and relevant to their daily lives, and encourages them to become future voters and possibly entertain the idea of becoming political leaders. Our aim is to make political participation attractive, debunking myths, offering role models and charting a path around the obstacles that exist for women in particular.The voices of all genders are essential to policymaking. Boys begin to understand that they need the input of girls, and girls become more open to the idea of equality and becoming leaders. Every student learns that society is stronger when all of its citizens are represented in leadership roles. As a result, students come to see choosing a woman leader as a viable option.

The Program

One important outcome of the Dancing Backwards Program is an online archive of Canadian political women and their contributions to Canada, told through the lens of students.Students select a woman’s story to re-tell in any artistic medium they choose. Through the transformative process of creating art, they appreciate how Canadian history has been gender-skewed and become invested in adding women to the mix. In the future they are more likely to look at politics from all sides of gender. Students feel emotionally satisfied and relieved that they have been able to contribute to a fairer representation of the past, which will in turn affect the future. They are dancing backwards in order to move forwards.
Having participated in the Dancing Backwards program, students will:
  • Gain an understanding into political/governance structure and vocabulary
  • Learn what it takes to be a good citizen, and the importance of voting
  • Appreciate the role politics plays in their daily lives
  • Teach each other about equality
  • Understand why women are underrepresented in Parliament, Legislatures and government
  • Research and retell the stories of Canadian political women, and Indigenous women leaders (past or present, near or far)
  • Submit completed stories to the Dancing Backwards Her Story Archive.


Dancing Backwards is graphically presented using bright colours, interesting visuals, sound effects and activities, attractive to any age group.
An eight-part format is recommended, though teachers are free to adapt the program to fit their own schedule. Six parts are dedicated to a reflective study of Canadian politics, the importance of citizen participation, gender issues in leadership, role modeling, and inspiration, all presented through on-screen videos, games, teaching tools and materials. The final two parts are focused on creative story-telling (the final Her Story Archive projects). Once the creative story-telling section commences, students choose a political woman who is, or who was, a leader in governance to be the subject of their project. It is important that they have the freedom to tell whatever part of her life resonates with them. The story-telling exercise is about what excites and interests the students and is not intended to be a documentation of any woman’s entire life story.NOTE: It is important that each student have a completed Parent/Guardian Permission Form, granting Dancing Backwards the right to include student work on the web.There are only two guidelines:
  1. The length of the student story-tellings must be three minutes or shorter in order to be eligible for uploading to the Her Story Archive.
  2. The woman they choose for their project is or was an elected woman in politics or governance, or the first woman to be appointed to a particular political arena, or influential in policy/governance. The woman should not be a candidate currently running for election, as dancingbackwards.ca is a non-partisan project.
The Dancing Backwards story-telling section works best with students working in small groups. The group chooses one woman, decides what part of the story to focus on, what medium to use and what each student will contribute. This gives students the opportunity to participate using the democratic and artistic principles laid out in the program. Depending on the level of the class, the personalities of the students and the demographics of your school, teacher-determined variations are welcome. Good luck and have fun. We can’t wait to see the final projects!

Partners and Supporters

The Dancing Backwards Program
Created by Sandy Mayzell
Written by Johanna Lee and Sandy Mayzell
Additional Materials by Jessica Hoyt, Monica Prendergast,
Lacey Jones, Sarah King, Angela Hemming, John Gould and Alexa Lewis.

Funded by the Government of Canada core logo

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