A lot of parents consider education within schools to be purely academic. Students often see school as a mix of academia and socializing—very few of us really consider the practical lessons that also take place. While there’s no doubt that English, Math, and Science are important, health classes can also have a huge impact on the overall quality of life of pupils and should not be overlooked. The skills and knowledge that this class provides can have a huge impact can make a huge difference to their future. This is a class take teaches students about some of life’s important personal decisions. So, it’s important to follow the 5 tips below when developing a health education curriculum for students.
Five tips for an effective health education curriculum
1. Be inclusive
There are a whole lot of people who need to be involved in producing a strong curriculum—and they should all be involved in its development. Gym teachers, nutritionists, nurses, doctors, and students, themselves, should all have a say as each person has their own area of expertise that can be valuable to developing a solid program. Leaving all aspects of health to a person who is only experienced in one field can leave huge gaps in your syllabus. Therefore, it is important to promote the fact that you are developing a curriculum and make sure that you include as many voices as possible.
Without representation from all aspects of the community, and people who have specific qualifications in certain areas, your curriculum won’t be as effective as it could potentially be. As a good health class will cover everything from cycling safely to immunizations to STIs to mental health to diet and exercise, it is simply impossible to expect one person to be able to put together a great curriculum on so many varied issues.
2. Be coordinated with other programs
Many communities have existing groups for support or information on a variety of topics that will also be covered in a health class. It can be super helpful to coordinate with these groups to make sure you have the correct links to the outside community, where your students can find extra support or seek help once they leave school. This also ensures that 1) there is a coordinated approach from the community and 2) students and their parents aren’t receiving conflicting or contradictory information. This makes it easier for students to speak with their family members or get advice from within or outside of school.
It can also be really helpful to have guest speakers come to health class to talk about their relevant areas of work, as students may be less self-conscious and happier to ask questions. These experts will also be able to draw on their own experiences, without worrying about accidentally revealing the identity of a student that has been in trouble. For example, a regular teacher may not have sufficient knowledge to deliver an effective class regarding violence or gangs or even mental health, which is an incredibly complex subject. If you want to provide your students with the best possible education, then you will need to link with professionals like this.
3. Make sure timing is right
Many parents are very uncomfortable in addressing topics such as sex, reproduction, or even alcohol and drug use. Often, parents only really bring up these issues once they’re already worried about their kids and suspect they may already be involved. However, prevention is the best form of cure. Most studies show that talking to kids about 2 years before certain behaviors are expected to start is most effective. This means that they need to learn about drinking responsibly and having safe sex before it is legal. While there may be some resistance from parents, any good curriculum needs to start at the right time to be effective, and this should absolutely be considered in the planning stages. It’s important to do research into the local area for the ages most students are at risk for various issues, such as mental health or drug use, and make sure that your health class addresses this in the two years prior to that age.
4. Find a good balance
Your health education curriculum should be standardized in a lot of ways. You should be following core pillars and making sure you include universal principles in your teaching. You shouldn’t decide to neglect certain parts of well-acknowledged necessary elements as you feel they don’t fit in with your school; following expert procedure and topics is absolutely the best way forward. However, this needs to be done in a delicate balance with a personal approach. Nobody knows better than you what issues are more important to your school. Whether there’s more eating disorders, obesity, or mental health problems in your area than on average, you are within your rights to focus on certain elements more than others if that’s what you think your students need. But you do need to cover all topics.
There should also be an option for creativity and student involvement to make sure that they are, in fact, receiving the services that they need. While this may be tough in schools or districts that are more religious, the priority needs to be the continued well-being of students, which means that you can’t miss out standardized elements because they might ruffle feathers.
5. Practice what you preach
When coming up with a curriculum for a health class, a lot of healthcare and education professionals forget to check if the rest of the school consolidates the lessons students receive. Is it possible to talk to someone about mental health? Is contraception available and are there signs to make students aware of where they can find help anonymously? Even small factors, like ensuring healthy lunch options are available, can help reinforce the message of living a healthy life. This makes your message more meaningful and earns the trust and confidence of students.
Developing a health class that works for all students is tough; however, following the above tips helps you provide a class that can provide a lot of advice, relevant to all students.