Hampton geometry students use Barbie dolls for lesson in understanding proportions
To better understand proportions, ninth-graders recently “Barbie-ized” themselves at Hampton High School.
They replicated a traditional Barbie doll's proportions on tracings of their own bodies.
“They're going to discover that Barbie is not a scaled-down human,” teacher Amy Leya predicted before her honors geometry students tackled one of their latest assignments.
“Last year, my students did this project and sent letters to Mattel,” she said.
Leya now wonders if those letters partly inspired Mattel's new curvy, tall and petite Barbie dolls. A number of the letters criticized the traditional Barbie doll's small feet and big head. Mattel representatives were unavailable for comment.
“With such a small waist, if Barbie were human size, she could only hold half of her stomach organs,” student Connor Andrews wrote in his 2015 letter to Mattel CEO Christopher Sinclair.
On behalf of Sinclair, Mattel Senior Vice President Stephanie Cota collectively responded to Leya's students in writing.
“It is important to remember that Barbie is a toy, not a miniature replica of a real person,” Cota wrote.
To discover the unrealistic proportions of a traditional Barbie doll's body, Leya's students first measured the doll's lips, feet, arms, waist, head and hands in centimeters.
Groups of students then selected one classmate to lie on a long sheet of banner paper for a body tracing.
After tracing their own bodies on the floor, Leya's students then used algebra, multiplication and division skills, plus, their rulers and calculators, to compute the measurements they needed to draw their own heads, waists, hands and feet in proportion to those same body party on a traditional, 29-centimeter-long Barbie doll, with a 3-centimeter-long head.
Leya's students then superimposed their ‘Barbie-ized' body parts onto the original tracings of their actual bodies.
“It's just ratios,” is how Grace Kluender, 15, summed up the challenge.
“It was kind of confusing in the beginning, but we're getting the hang of it,” said J.J. Lee, 15, who tackled the assignment with classmates Regis Colwell, 14, and Ethan Roahrig, 14.
In duplicating Barbie's proportions, the students saw their waists, arms and feet dramatically shrink, while their heads and lips seemed to double in size — all on paper.
Leya, 48, chose the assignment to complement a chapter in her students' textbook on similarities.
“It's all about proportions,” Leya said about the assignment. “I found the original idea on Pinterest.”
Shari Berg, spokeswoman for the Hampton Township School District, said the assignment well illustrates the district's commitment to a curriculum that promotes relevant learning.
“Every teacher is expected to provide that relevance,” Berg said.
Deborah Deasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-772-6369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.