Activity for Gender Awareness

Colors of the Rainbow

by Jill Schladweiler (Special thanks to Michelle Cummings for her inspiration and the lovely folks at NCCPS 2019)

Ages: all ages and abilities

Group size: Suggested size for parts 1 and 2, up to 18, I have done part 3 with 35 people

Supplies: space for all people, wide variety of crayon colors

Action: simple body movement

Purpose: communication, shared mental model, perspective, perception, view of self

Simplify: Use less crayons or crayons with more traditional names

Note:  Be mindful of folks in your group that may be color blind, this opens things up to group support and individual perception


Each participant takes a crayon and holds it so you can only see the tip of the color and not the name on the wrapper, if as they pick up a crayon, they look at the label, ask them to switch a few times reminding them not to look at the label. Ask the participants to organize themselves in a line, alphabetically, by the name of the color (the name given by Crayola) without revealing the wrapper.  For purposes of simplicity, use ROYGBIV (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet) as your color model and eliminate the white and black crayons. I do this to avoid the discussion of absence of color. When they team feels ready, ask them for a thumbs up.

Debrief:  It is advised to read through the debrief prompts and use ones that coincide with the group goals or that are most relevant to the group.

  • How did we do (reveal)? Have the group go down the line and share the name they gave their color vs what is on the label.
  • Do you agree with/identify with the color on the crayon?
  • Did anyone in the group have the same color, was that recognized before the reveal?
  • Did your crayon not have a color label, have you ever felt like you too did not have a label?
  • Which area in the color spectrum did you gravitate to?
  • Let’s assume Crayola is society, do you agree with the labels and boundaries placed on you?
  • Is there a characteristic about your color or color name you identify with?
  • Does the name you gave the color align with “societies” name, do you agree?
  • Did someone suggest a different name for your color then you thought, if so, did you follow their perspective on the color name or your own?
  • Have you ever felt that society forced you somewhere you didn’t think you fit, how did that make you feel?
  • How did others perceive your label, did it change how you perceived it?
  • Have you ever felt like you have been placed or treated in a certain way because of what they see but may not know?
  • Were you inclined to stand next to colors that looked like yours know it may not be your proper spot? Safety in similarity.
  • Do you feel like you belong to more than one group? Once the reveal happens, ask participants to regroup with like colors, like names, etc. (glitter crayons, no label crayons)

***Optional topics***

  • Mental illness, you can’t see what is going on inside someone or at a glance
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Societies desire to be able to place things in a box with a label
  • Layers of labels: How you see you, how others see you, how society sees you; how do you decide where you fit. Sometimes do you follow one way of being seen and sometimes another?
  • Now that you have seen your color name, reorder yourself, what do you think about your new spot in the line?

***Option inside the activity*** Once the group has somewhat lined up, ask the group to group by colors, not revealing their color name, does that change where you think you belong in the line? When you picked your initial color, were you drawn to that color specifically?

I use the 96 count Crayola Crayon box. I prefer Crayola Crayons because they have an extreme variety of names and colors. I purchased mine at Wal-Mart for around $5. Be aware, that my 96 pack came with a Gel FX crayon that did not have a color name. This can give the group an excellent opportunity to debrief a crayon with no label. I suggest looking through your crayon box before using this activity to be aware of what you have.