Three Bracebridge Students Create Free Menstruation Stations At School

Menstruation station
Maggie McDonald, Jacey Oswald and Emma Stanley. Photo courtesy of Jeff Oswald

Three local students are dedicating their time and money to creating free menstruation stations at their school, providing a variety of free products to their peers while also normalizing conversations about periods.

Grade 6 students Emma Stanley, Jacey Oswald and Maggie McDonald attend Monsignor Michael O’Leary School in Bracebridge. They first thought of creating menstruation stations at school during an indoor recess sometime last year, but it wasn’t until this past winter break that they decided to take action. The first time they pitched their idea, they got turned down, so they went shopping using money they had saved up and put together a basket with a variety of period products before making a presentation to their principal.

“The principal said that maybe we could do like little pencil cases of just one size of a pad, which was better than nothing, but we thought it could be better,” Stanley said. “After winter break, we presented the idea to her and gave her a pros and cons list.”

Their baskets offer a variety of free products so that anyone can take the style and size they’re most comfortable using. Stanley said it’s important to them that people don’t feel ashamed or concerned if they get their period and aren’t prepared, especially if it’s the first time.

Menstruation station
A menstruation station. Photo courtesy of Jacey Oswald

The school previously offered one style of pad in the office and in paid dispensers, so it was important to the girls to have different options available directly in the washrooms. They also wanted to make sure they were free since most students don’t carry loose change. Their principal raised concerns about flushed products clogging the toilets, so they crafted a solution for that as well.

“We told her that we would make signs to say ‘No flushing’ and ‘Take only what you need,’” Jacey said. “It has worked, and we have the basket up where younger kids can’t get to it in the bathroom.”

For McDonald, the baskets aim to address a simple issue of equity: everyone deserves to have access to the same products and privileges. She’s proud of what they’ve been able to do, and spending their own money on the supplies was just something she felt was necessary.

“We didn’t get any money from anyone else, so we decided that we would just have to use our own,” she said.

After buying the first batch of products themselves, they decided to write a letter to the Rexall in Bracebridge, where Stanley’s dad works. They provided details of their project and asked for a donation to cover the cost of some supplies. The store agreed and donated $50 for them to spend on period products.

The trio plans to write more letters to other businesses so that they can continue stocking a variety of items at the menstruation stations. They hope the project will continue to grow and possibly inspire other schools to take on similar initiatives as another way to continue the conversation about periods.

“At first it was a little bit awkward, but then we realized that it is normal and that we shouldn’t be awkward,” Jacey said. “It shouldn’t be an awkward thing to talk about, and it should be normalized.”

Teacher Andrea Rahkola said it’s been exciting to watch her three students work on creating this resource for their peers. They haven’t needed much guidance along the way, and she knew they would get the green light as soon as she saw their presentation.

“They were so well prepared for it, and it was received so well by our principal,” Rahkola said. “It was a no-brainer when they presented it to her that it was the next step that we would take.”

Rahkola’s current class, a combined group of Grade 5 and 6 students, is her first long-term teaching placement, so it’s been inspiring to have such compassionate students as a first-time teacher. They always try to use gender-inclusive language to talk about people who get periods, she said, and they make sure to consider access, affordability and more when talking about menstruation. 

Period products in a menstruation station. Photo courtesy of Jacey Oswald

“It just makes me excited for the future that people like Maggie, Jacey and Emma will be on the forefront of change, leading us forward,” she said.

It’s been heartwarming for Jacey’s dad Jeff to watch the girls step up to the task and help their school. He always knew his daughter had a good head on her shoulders, and it’s nice to see her heading in the right direction in life.

“We’re just completely blown away by it,” he said. “She’s always been an incredible kid and always thinking of others, but to see it actually happen this way, it’s a great feeling as a parent.”

Watching the three of them continue to work toward a positive outcome after being told no was incredible, he said. He’s so proud of the three girls for their passion and perseverance, and he hopes that they’ll get the recognition they deserve.

“All the parents involved, we’re so proud of the girls that they fought for it,” Jeff said. “At 11 years old, for them to go into a store and ask for a donation without any help, and they’re spending their birthday and Christmas money and chore money, it’s just a wonderful thing, and we’re all so happy that they’re doing it.”


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