Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School students are gearing up for a large-scale exhibit about “toxic” aspects of teen culture.
A spinoff of last year’s highly successful “MoCAT museum,” the exhibit will operate as a “pop-up museum” featuring exhibits that demonstrate the inequalities of the college admissions system, white and male privilege and the effects of social media.
The general theme focuses on “cultural toxicity,” defined by the students creating the museum as beliefs, ideas, actions or inactions that promote negative behavior.
Students began planning the museum before a list surfaced earlier this month in which boys ranked girls in the school’s International Baccalaureate program based on physical appearance, but students have designed some of the museum exhibits in response to the list.
“We’re showing that we’re going to be the generation that says this isn’t OK, this isn’t how it should be,” said B-CC student Aidan Smyth.
The museum will be open three days in late April at a former Bank of America branch at 7316 Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda, where participants will work through a life-sized board game-type of set-up, maneuvering between dozens of exhibits focused on common instances of toxicity in teen culture.
One female student whose name was on the B-CC list, Virginia Brown, will conduct a presentation about the rankings list and its impact on students involved.
Leading up to the museum’s opening on April 26, students will host two other events around the region, the first on April 3 at the Avalon Theater in Washington, D.C. There, students will screen a documentary, “Red Roll Red,” about the rape of a high school girl in Ohio. The film explores the “deep-seated and social media-fueled ‘boys will be boys’ culture,” according to the movie’s website. There will also be speakers and debates.
On April 6 at the Lincoln Cottage in the District, students invite the public to attend a light-hearted “CATillion,” a modern take on the 18th century formal balls. There will be modern dance lessons and discussions about how to navigate “sometimes mystifying” issues of teen culture, such as best practices for interacting with people with whom you disagree politically and how to address people who identify as LGTBQ.
“Our goal, I think, is to bring the outside community into our world as teenagers today, but also to bring students together and show what we care about and how different toxicities can impact communities differently,” said Sophia Saidi, a B-CC student. “Then we want to address it and change some of these behaviors.”
Last year’s museum, which welcomed people into lives of teenagers, covering topics from gender fluidity to ride-share harassment, drew national media coverage and a visit from the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. The exhibit was full each day it was open, organizers said.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org