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This is the online version of the book Positive Puberty, one of The Curriculum in Action series. Positive Puberty supports the implementation of Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum (1999) by providing teachers with ideas for planning units of work to meet the identified learning needs of students. Although the learning experiences present a teaching sequence, teachers are not expected to implement all the suggested activities, and they may decide not to follow the sequence suggested. To meet the learning needs of their students, teachers may use all or part of this material over a two- or three-year cycle. They may also select from activities designed for other year levels.
Why provide opportunities for sexuality education?
This online version of the Positive Puberty book includes suggestions for activities that can help young people in years 6, 7, and 8 to:
- understand the physical and emotional changes that accompany puberty;
- develop understanding of factors that may affect the way their families handle those changes;
- become aware of how their relationships with those around them may change during puberty.
Sexuality is a core part of every person. It contributes to each individual's self-image, their sense of self-worth, and their relationships with other people.
Sexuality education is a lifelong process. It provides students with the knowledge, understanding, and skills to develop positive attitudes towards sexuality, to take care of their sexual health, and to enhance their interpersonal relationships, now and in the future.
Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum, page 38
Education about puberty meets the needs of young people who are experiencing (or expecting to experience) a period of significant changes as they become adults.
Every young person, whatever their gender, ethnicity, culture, religion, physical stature, and abilities or disabilities, experiences puberty. Parents, caregivers, and whānau are their primary source of information and education about their sexuality. Sometimes the adults in a family know all that their child needs to learn and are confident about sharing what they know. When this is so, their children can gain an excellent understanding of the changes that will occur at puberty. When adults in their family are less well-informed or less confident, young people can become confused and unsure about what is happening to them. Reiss (1993) and Morris (1996) have shown that when schools provide sexuality education programmes focusing on puberty, to complement what their students learn at home, the students gain a fuller understanding of puberty and the changes that come with it.
New Zealand society includes a diverse range of people from many countries and cultures. Adult New Zealanders have different ideas about how to educate their children about pubertal change. Mainstream Māori and Pākehā views differ in some respects, and many of the cultures represented by immigrant families in New Zealand have their own distinct perspectives on the topic. Even parents in the same family may have different opinions. However, there is generally much common ground. All parents and caregivers want the best for their children.
When they consult together about health education, the school and the students' parents and caregivers can develop a shared appreciation of the value of a school- based programme that covers the changes and adjustments that occur during puberty. Such programmes need to include all students if they are to be effective in helping to meet Ministry of Health goals for community health (particularly in the areas of mental health and sexual health). Refer to the Sexuality Education: A Guide for Principals and Boards of Trustees and teachers for suggestions about the process of consultation.
Changes at puberty affect young people powerfully in many ways – the changes are not just physical. Each person's sexuality is grounded in their gender and in what they have learned from their family and cultures. Many people's ideas about sexuality are also influenced by religious beliefs and practices, which may be in accord with their other cultural beliefs or opposed to them. Puberty is usually a time when a person who, as a young child, has been cared for and protected by their family begins the process of moving towards independence. The young person's peer group begins to have more influence on their thoughts and actions and partially replaces the influence of the family. Many advertisements seek to exploit young people's wish to conform (or to impress their friends).
Teachers should plan and deliver sexuality education programmes that give young people accurate information about changes during puberty and that encourage them to empathise with others. Such programmes can enhance each student's self-image, build up their sense of self-worth, and help them to manage the changes as they occur.
Linking to Curriculum
Possible learning experiences
References and resources
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