Manhood Collage

Reflection and Awareness

This 70-90 minute activity gives participants an opportunity to reflect on their past and current lives as sons, men, and fathers, and helps them think about their experiences as adolescents moving toward manhood.From The Responsible Fatherhood Curriculum: A Curriculum Developed for the Parents' Fair Share Demonstration, available from MDRC.


  • Pictures from magazines that depict "male" life as a teenager (such as pictures of sports, the playground, school, graduation, food, candy, clothing, family, friends, beer, cigarettes, cars, cologne, women, music, work, etc.)
  • "Feeling" words (such as cool, hot, bad, crazy, wild, smooth, diss, respect, friends, depressed, happy, confused, etc.)
  • Construction paper
  •  Scissors
  •  Glue

Planning Note

  • The goal of "Manhood Collage" is to help the men think about their experiences as teenagers, when they were making the important transition into adulthood (and manhood). The use of pictures helps them to recall those powerful feelings. For men who have not resolved some of the difficulties of their teenage years, these feelings may still be close to the surface.
  • The collage activity can generate discussion in a group where some members are uncomfortable "just talking." The pictures give them something tangible to grasp and help to focus the discussion. They also get everyone involved, even the quiet members. If your group might have difficulty talking freely in the "What's It Been Like?" activity, choose this activity instead. Be sure to end with a discussion about the participants' experiences as men and fathers, using the questions provided (or your own).
  • Before the session, cut out pictures and "feeling" words that depict aspects of male life, particularly those of adolescence. Browse such magazines as Sports Illustrated, Essence, Ebony, Weight Lifting, Jet, THROUGH, Popular Mechanics, Latino, or any others that reflect the culture and ethnicity of the participants. Mount each picture and each word on a separate sheet of construction paper. Make enough of these so that each participant can select four or five images and words that represent who he was as an adolescent — and what manhood meant to him. (You can get backdated magazines from your friends, the doctor's or dentist's office, the barber shop, etc., allowing you to build a "collection" over time.)


  1. Tell the participants that they are going to do a fun activity to help them remember what they were like as boys, thinking about becoming a man. In this activity, "a picture is worth a thousand words."
  2. Place all the pictures and words in the center of the room, on a table or the floor. Say something like, "I would like you to pick up as many pictures or words as you want that show the group who you were as an adolescent. Pick items that show the activities, feelings, or ideas that you thought would make you a man."
  3. When everyone has gathered four or five pictures or words, lead a discussion using the following questions.

Discussion Questions

  • What were you like as a teenager? What was important to you? What did you spend your time doing? Who were your friends?
  • What do the pictures and words that you chose tell us about you during your teen years? How did you feel about yourself? In what ways have you changed?
  • What kinds of things did you do as a boy that helped you make the transition to manhood? What people were important at this time in your life? How did they influence your becoming a man?
  • Which people in your neighborhood or community did you see or have contact with every day? Who were the men in your life? Which men did you look up to?
  • What ideas did these men give you about being a man? About being a father?
  • What kinds of jobs did the men in your community or neighborhood have?
  • What ideas did these men give you about a man's role as a worker and provider?
  • How did people around you view men who did not work?
  • As a boy, what kind of job or career did you hope to have when you became an adult?
  • What was your relationship like with your family? With your father (or, possibly, stepfather)?
  • What thoughts do you remember having about what your life would be like if you became a father someday?
  • Were you a teenage father, or did you have friends who were? If so, how did this experience shape you (or your friends) as a father? What would be different if you had become a father when you were older?
  • In what ways are your children's lives like your own as a boy? In what way are they different?
  • From the pictures and words that you chose to represent who you were as a teenager, which would you like your children to someday choose or not choose?
  • Who were the most important women in your life? What did they teach you about manhood?
  • What do you want your daughters to know about what it's like to be a man?
  • When everyone has had an opportunity to talk about his life during adolescence, have a general discussion about how boys become men. Include all the factors that influence a young man's development, including friends, parents, schools, media, and the community (prompt the men to discuss not only people but also their teenage opportunities, ideas, values, experiences, world events, etc.).



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