Designing Activity: Rethinking girls’ experiences of physical education using fashion design and virtual reality.

Changing physical activity experiences for young girls.

Engaging young girls in physical education lessons has been a challenge for educators for decades. The effects of conformity to school policy, puberty, identity construction, peer pressure, past trauma, western idealism of beauty and bullying all have a part to play in the way girls feel about performing physical activity. In fact the physical activity space itself; for example the school sports hall, playing field and changing rooms all have a profound effect on how girls experience their physicality. 

Discipline, femininity and difference are all forces that cause affective behaviours within schools. Situations cause sensations and emotions, some good, some bad, some devastating ,some ecstatic. The confrontation with the bully in the playground where we felt afraid, the boy who said hello that made us blush, the teaching telling us we are bad or good, the friend who trusts you with her life. All experience is deep set in our subconscious memory. So when it comes to physical activity any negative experience is going to have an effect on future attitudes towards health and wellbeing. 

From past studies on girls attitudes towards physical education (PE), it was found that many girls viewed the school PE kits as a barrier.

Blossom and Wren are researching how clothing worn for fitness can be a barrier to some  girls in taking up sport and exercise due to negative body image and body dysmorphia. These are very serious problems that can affect a multitude of women however it is a larger problem with young girls and teenagers.

Blossom and Wren will be working with the University of Bath’s Department for Health and Computer Science Department to research solutions to aid positive body image and motivate and encourage women and girls through the use of computer generated avatars and virtual reality.
The solution we aim to develop and test consists of:
1) A user platform for co-designing fitness garments
2) Avatar development of users through body scanning
3) Virtual reality testing through motivational exergaming.
Blossom and Wren aim to produce robust knowledge about ways in which design practice can help solve social science problems.