Thesis Project



Say Cheese

Featuring: The Cheese Class


May 8, 2020
Natalie Fabbri

The Problem

Ohio schools don’t require any kind of LGBTQ+ history curriculum, meaning that very few students receive any kind of queer-inclusive education in K-12. This lack of representation has negative ramifications
for youth, both LGBTQ+ and not.

In what ways can engaged experiences introduce
queer history & narrative to fourth grade classrooms? 

Target Audience

Fourth grade teachers and their students. This audience could extend to reach parents looking for supplemental activities for their children, or homeschool parents.


In the context of this project, I’m defining queer-inclusive education as curriculum including lessons with positive representations of LGBTQ+ people, history, and events.  Only four states require LGBTQ+ history to be taught by law, and Ohio isn’t one of them.

GLSEN’s 2017 National School Climate survey revealed that schools without queer-inclusive curriculums create a hostile environment for LGBTQ+ students, with disturbingly high rates of anti-LGBTQ+ language (95.3% hear homophobic remarks frequently). Only 36% of students at schools without inclusive curriculums are accepting of LGBTQ+ people, often leaving LGBTQ+ students feeling unsafe and unable to reach their full potential in school. 
However, schools with queer-inclusive curriculums nearly double the amount of students accepting  of LGBTQ+ people (from 36% to 70%), resulting in LGBTQ+ students that feel safer, happier, and perform better in school. Despite this, only 16% of Ohio students receive any kind of queer-inclusive education between kindergarten and the fifth grade.

Keeping this knowledge in mind, I created a survey to see how people feel about inclusive education, and if their own queer-exclusive experiences in school affected them in any way.

With 225 respondents (a nearly perfect split between LGBTQ+ and not), I learned… 

  • only 5 respondents recieved any kind of queer inclusive education k-5
  • 85% think a lack of queer representation in school affects attitudes about LGBTQ+ people
  • 63% were personally affected by a lack of queer representation in school 
  • 87% believe schools schould have queer-inclusive curriculums 

I asked respondents to elaborate on how a lack of queer representation in school affected them, and some common themes emerged: 

  • LGBTQ+ Respondents: identity confusion/delay (“didn’t know I was queer/that it was an option”, would’ve come out sooner)
  • Non-LGBTQ+ Respondents: lack of awareness/affected bias (ignorance about the community, struggle to accept LGBTQ+ people
  • Both: negative associations/emotions about queerness (view queerness as immoral, sinful, and weird). Expressed as isolation, shame, and self-hatred in the LGBTQ+ population, and homophobia and transphobia in the non-LGBTQ+ population.  

Design Process + Testing

I decided to create a design solution that would allow teachers to implement inclusive education in their classrooms whenever they have time, while still adhering to Ohio learning standards. 

My design process began with speaking to several teachers about how they structure their time, and what format they would want to receive queer-inclusive resources in. I then looked into existing curriculums for fourth graders, reading about how fourth graders learn best, and researching what activities they enjoy.

I worked with an elementary educator to create activities and lessons tailored to fourth grade interests and abilities, presented in a familiar format for teachers with ease.

Design Solution

Forward! is a flexible, easy to understand queer-inclusive curriculum guide (living as a printed booklet & as a PDF) that walks teachers through 20 different engaging activities & lessons that reflect Ohio learning standards. Students will learn about LGBTQ+ people’s contributions to history and culture, as well as getting the chance to reflect on their own identities and acceptance of others.

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