Sex Education in Elementary Schools: Gender Segregated or Coed?

I am often asked… …if boys and girls should be separated for sex education, especially in the elementary grades. Pros and cons exist for either approach to sex education in the elementary grades. Gender-Segregated Instruction Pros Cons When boys and girls are in separate classes, they may feel more comfortable asking questions about sex-specific topics, such as menstruation and nocturnal emissions. Some parents and educators are more supportive of teaching boys and girls separately. Instruction may be differentiated more easily to…

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#WhyCare — Jun

While I was working with a group at one of the big ten universities, a grad student shared the story of her 20-year-old roommate Jun, who was also attending the university. Jun’s mother, who lives in China, had never told Jun anything about sex. One night, Jun was drinking alcohol with her then-boyfriend, and he raped her. She was devastated and didn’t know what had happened to her. Fortunately, Jun did not get pregnant. The grad student decided that someone had to talk…

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#WhyCare — Brian

While shopping recently, a young man named Brian helped me select my purchase. In the course of our conversation, I told him about the work I do. He lit up! Brian told me how important it was that I continue to improve sex education for young people in schools. Then, he shared his own story. Brian attended a local school where he was often the target of teasing. However, what really bothered him was that his siblings and cousin were…

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#WhyCare — Jennifer

Recently, a teacher named Jennifer told me this story. When Jennifer was three, she woke up early on Christmas morning. Very excited to begin her day, she burst into her parents’ bedroom to find her mother on top of her father. Her parents shrieked, “Go out! And shut the door!” Later that morning, the family went to church, just as they always did on Sundays. During the children’s sermon, the pastor asked the kids what surprises they found that Christmas…

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How Can We Remain Silent About Puberty? Part 2

Young people are being harmed: Fewer than four in ten (38%) young teen mothers (age 18 and younger) graduate from high school by age 22.[1] Nearly half (48%) of 7th to 12th graders have experienced sexual harassment in school. The large majority (87%) said the sexual harassment had a negative effect on them.[2] Approximately one in three (32%) girls and one in seven (14%) boys are sexually abused by age 18.[3] Dating violence occurs in four in ten teen couples.[4]…

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#WhyCare — Dylan

Many years ago, I was working with a rural school district that needed support in planning their sex education programming. A nurse shared the life-altering experience she had while working in a clinic in southern Michigan. A teenager–let’s call him Dylan–came into the clinic because he was having trouble seeing. After examining the youth, the doctor realized Dylan had a type of vision loss that must have been worsening over a long period of time. When the doctor asked Dylan…

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#WhyCare — Annie

Annie is an intelligent, compassionate person who carefully balances her parenting role with her professional role. Now that her children are in elementary school, Annie realizes she needs to have some “talks” with her son and daughter. This point was driven home when her mother handed her the very same book on puberty that she had given to Annie as a child. Annie’s mother instructed her, “Be sure you share this book with the kids. And when you’re done, give…

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How Can We Remain Silent About Puberty? (Part 1)

Young people are getting mixed messages: Sex is still considered a dirty word and a taboo subject, even though sex is everywhere. Sex is used to sell products, internet services, movies, and television shows, and is the topic of jokes and conversations, but many young people have difficulty accessing reliable information. Mainstream culture is shouting “do it” while young people are told “don’t do it.” Young people are receiving distorted messages: Peers, who are likely to be misinformed, are often…

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First Training on the New Puberty: The Wonder Years Completed!

40 Educators Are Ready to Teach! On May 1, 2015, Genesee Intermediate School District hosted the inaugural professional development event on the 2015 Puberty: The Wonder Years curriculum. Dorothy Oppenheiser, Regional School Health Coordinator, invited teachers from three counties to attend and was the consummate host of this training. I learned a lot from the teachers who attended, and received valuable input from them about the curriculum and their students’ needs. The teachers were enthusiastic about the new lessons and teaching resources, and…

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Sex Education Maelstrom

Recent news events have illustrated the need for sex education that begins early; incorporates effective strategies and accurate information; and supports parents, teachers, and schools in their efforts to educate children and youth in a manner that equips them for life. How to do so is the challenge. The highly publicized live-tweet that narrated a sex education class has exposed a clash of values. The observed instruction was based on fear tactics, misinformation, and a one-sided representation of sexual relationships.…

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Home-School Partnership Is Key

Parents and other family members are children’s primary sex educators. From birth, family members have been communicating, both verbally and nonverbally, messages about sexuality. Children have acquired attitudes and behaviors without consciously knowing that they have been learning about puberty and sexuality. These messages come from the way parents dress their children, the toys given to children, the way children are touched and spoken to, and the sex roles family members fill. The school can help students understand and honor…

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What Makes Curriculum Effective?

Effective sexuality education programs prevent or reduce risky sexual behaviors by helping young people postpone sexual intercourse and increasing the use of risk reduction methods in those who are sexually active. Research has shown that such programs have the following 17 characteristics. The first set of characteristics is found in the process of developing the curriculum: 1.  Involved multiple people with expertise in theory, research, and sex and STD/HIV education to develop the curriculum. 2.  Assess relevant needs and assets…

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What educators are saying

“My students had lots of questions! They thanked me for being willing to teach them about what is happening to them.”



Mike B., Lansing School District

“Puberty: The Wonder Years doesn’t just stick to puberty. The curriculum also includes lessons on topics that I think are necessary, such as bullying and social-emotional components. There’s also a lot of scripting for really good conversation and prompts for the teachers.”

Tim Kordic, Project Advisor for Sexual Health & HIV Prevention, Los Angeles Unified School District

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Health Coordinator of the Year

Health Educator of the Year

Wendy receives her award from the American School Health Association