I am often asked… Mixed Gender or Gender-Segregated classes? Many educators wonder 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. So… gender-segregated or mixed gender? Read Appendix H from Puberty: The Wonder Years to learn more.
Recommendations for Teaching Sex Education for Grades 4-6
Given the lack of research on this question of gender-segregated or mixed-gender instruction, I can only base my recommendations on my experiences in teaching sex education to students across the grades, and the many discussions I’ve had with colleagues about this topic.
Below are some of my recommendations for ideal sex education for grades 4-6:
- Offer skills-based, research-based sex education in the same way, with the same content and strategies, to all students.
- Offer instruction taught by instructors who are qualified, prepared, equipped, and enthusiastic about teaching sex education.
- If possible, provide instruction lead by a team of two instructors who identify as two different genders. This is to model a stigma-free approach to talking about sensitive topics and to provide role models.
- Offer instruction to mixed-gender classes with all students together for the majority of the lessons.
- Offer one optional gender-specific session for students who want to discuss topics that are specific to their anatomy, such as menstruation and erections. If this is done, allow students to self-select into the class and offer the same information to both classes. For example, talk about menstruation and erections with both groups of students.
- Use a question box to encourage students’ higher-order thinking. Answer all questions in a developmentally appropriate and professional manner.
Resources for Teaching Puberty Education
- Read more about teaching gender-inclusive puberty education.
- Check out Puberty: The Wonder Years for grades 4, 5, and 6. The curriculum teaches students the knowledge and skills needed to have a positive puberty experience.
- Read about healthy childhood sexual development and how you can help children develop into sexually healthy adults.
- Consider taking an Online Training Course to increase your comfort and confidence in teaching 5th graders about puberty.
- Click to download a printable version of this blog.
Author’s Note: Please note that terms have been used intentionally in this discussion. Terminology related to sex and gender change over time. To learn more about definitions of these and related terms, please read https://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/programs/safe-supportive/lgbt/key-terms.pdf and https://www.hrc.org/resources/sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity-terminology-and-definitions.