Putting Learning into Practice

Ginny Prairie (middle and high school curriculum coordinator), Randi Wilkinson (elementary school curriculum coordinator) and Monica Clear (child safeguarding coordinator) write on a recent visit they coordinated with Dr Claire Vanston, a sexual health education expert from Canada.

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In early April 2018, Dr Claire Vanston visited ASIJ through the support of the PTA. Dr Vanston is a sexual health education expert from Canada who works with schools in North America and internationally to create a comprehensive curriculum that increases knowledge and instills protective factors around personal safety and sexual health. The purpose of her visit was to work with the ASIJ community to better understand sexual health education and the research-based needs of children at each developmental stage.

Since Dr Claire’s visit, there have been several areas of instant improvement, with more to come in the following years. Our fourth and fifth-grade units are now co-ed rather than segregated, which allows for greater empathy and understanding of body changes by both genders during puberty. Teaching in co-ed groups allowed students to remain with their homeroom teacher, and as a result students reported a greater comfort level learning and asking questions about the content. In grade 5, a lesson about gender identity and expression was added to learn that there is range of gender identities and everyone is equally valuable.

In grade 8, focus has shifted from ways to prevent becoming a victim to the understanding that no one should ever put another person in a unsafe situation. We also started using phrases such as “Do no sexual harm,” “‘No always wins” and “Only yes means yes.” Lastly, the idea of consent has been identified, defined and explained. Grades 6 and 7 are currently working on their curriculum for next year to improve student learning and understanding of the sexual health outcomes. In time, these will be integrated with the Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and physical/mental health curricula to create a well-rounded whole child health program.

The grade 10 Health classes are wrapping up their sexual health unit this month and taught with the “Do no sexual harm” platform throughout. We added lessons about the harmful effects of pornography as well. While STIs used to be a major part of the unit, the team simplified this lesson to identify which ones were viral, bacterial and parasitic, and discussed prevention and treatment. Teachers led Gender identity lessons and the importance of consent was a strong focus. For the second year in a row, the classes have created posters to share on the walls of the high school. The hope is that the collection of posters will continue to grow and the entire high school will benefit from the awareness of gender identity, consent, sexting, sexual assault and harassment information. Furthermore, the high school has committed time for next year’s ninth-graders to participate in seminars throughout the year that will focus on healthy relationships as well as time for small advisory groups to support the transition into high school and focus on the social and emotional needs of students.

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ASIJ will continue to add nursery-grade 12 outcomes to the comprehensive health curriculum over the next year. This curriculum revision will incorporate our professional learning and development around social, emotional, mental, physical and sexual health. We are committed to know, value and care for each child, and are actively strengthening this commitment through the implementation of our health curriculum.