Human Development & Sexual Health Peer Sharing Webinar Blog
In March, Ophea hosted a peer sharing webinar with a specific focus on supporting the implementation of the Human Development & Sexual Health curriculum expectations, one of the health topics in Strand D: Healthy Living within the 2019 Ontario Elementary Health and Physical Education (H&PE) curriculum. The intention of the peer sharing webinar was to provide participants an opportunity to engage in an online discussion and share practical examples from their own classroom experiences, as well as to provide them the opportunity to ask any questions they may have around the Human Development and Sexual Health topic within the Health and Physical Education Curriculum, 2019.
We would like to thank our co-facilitators involved in this webinar:
Andrea Haefele is a Health & Physical Education teacher in the York Region District School Board. She is also an Ophea Ambassador and an Ontario Association for the Support of Physical Health Educators (OASPHE) member. Andrea has been part of many regional and provincial initiatives that support the Health & Physical Education curriculum, Healthy Schools, and also Daily Physical Activity. She is a strong advocate for quality H&PE programming for all students of all abilities.
Gemma Simon is a Public Health Nurse with the School Years Program in the Healthy Schools and Communities Division at Halton Region. She is also the topic lead for healthy sexuality content within the program.
Tanya Woods is an Instructional Program Leader for K-8 Health & Physical Education with the Halton District School Board and also sits on the Ontario Association for the Support of Physical and Health Educators (OASPHE) executive. Tanya has worked for the Halton District School Board as an Elementary Physical & Health Educator for 16 years and an Instructional Program Leader for the last 5 years. In her current role, she is responsible for all professional development related to the Elementary Health & Physical Education curriculum, elementary athletics, safety, well being and outdoor experiential education.
We would also like to send a thank you to our participants for their active engagement and sharing their ideas and experiences throughout the peer sharing session.
The format of the webinar was a question and answer period with the context for each question summarized in advance. Below is a synopsis of the dialogue that occurred throughout the webinar for each question.
It is important to approach the topic of Human Development and Sexual Health with additional sensitivity, care and awareness due to students’ personal nature and connection to family values, religious beliefs, as well as other social or cultural norms. Human Development and Sexual Health education is more than simply teaching young people about the anatomy and physiology of reproduction.
Can you take a moment to share other concepts that are important and valuable for our students to learn about within the Human Development and Sexual Health topic area?
- Students at all ages are learning about themselves, who they are in relation to themselves and others, and how that impacts the decisions they make around topics such as: consent, choice and sexual readiness, body image, gender identity and gender expression, healthy relationships, etc. They are also encouraged to make connections beyond themselves to understand how their health is connected with that of others and how it is affected by factors in the world around them.
As students grow and develop, they build an understanding of the physical, emotional, social, and cognitive changes, and the further development of sense of self and identity that they will experience at puberty. Their learning about human development, and their understanding of its many interrelated aspects, deepens as students get older and as the nature of their relationships change. Acquiring information and skills, as well as developing attitudes, beliefs and values related to identity and relationships are lifelong processes. It is important that both teachers and learners have a comfort level with these concepts within the Human Development and Sexual Health topic so that information can be discussed openly, honestly, and in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
What are some good teaching practices that you can support educators who may not have the confidence and/or content knowledge to deliver this content?
- Knowing your learners, what they need and how to communicate with their parents/guardians is always a priority. Set ground rules so that discussions take place within a setting that is accepting, inclusive, and respectful of all. Use the people in your building to prep, seek out current resources, team teach or simply reflect on your students and your own attitudes, biases, and values with respect to the topics being taught. As well, communicating with parents early about what their children are learning (e.g. outlines of learning, formal and informal conversations, curriculum events) will alleviate any uncertainty.
In the Human Development and Sexual Health webinar presented in February, we discussed the concepts of gender identity and gender expression. In this webinar, the following information was shared:
- we can’t know someone’s gender identity or expression just by looking at them
- children and youth often don’t have the means or a safe environment to express themselves how they’d like
- gender expression differs across cultural groups
As educators, how do you create a physically and emotionally safe learning environment that recognizes the different elements of identity that can inform things like our students’ attraction identity (i.e. sexual orientation), gender identity and/or gender expression?
- Educators need to avoid assumptions by placing emphasis on developing relationship skills, including ways to communicate respectfully with others, and basic problem solving.
- Create environments where students understand that differences are to be embraced and that each person’s story is unique to them.
- Focus the learning on skills related to self-awareness, identifying and managing emotions, and learning to cope with challenges.
How can we embed expectations from the Social-Emotional Learning Skills Strand A when we are addressing the concepts that would be similar (or dissimilar) to other concepts in Human Development and Sexual Health?
- Make connections that Social-Emotional Learning Skills, which are related to A1.5 Self Awareness and Sense of Identity, are best realized when sexual health is understood at its broadest sense and that it starts in Grade 1 (e.g. D1.3 identify body parts, including genitalia (e.g. penis, testicles, vagina, vulva), using correct terminology and body-positive language [A1.5 Self]), or prior to even starting school.
As educators we need to be able to reflect on our own teaching practice when it comes to the delivery of any curriculum.
What possible gaps in particular to the Human Development and Sexual Health topic might need to be developed or enhanced to ensure that you have the competence and confidence to deliver the expectations under this topic area? Describe a “barrier” you have come across in the implementation of this health topic and identify a “bridge” you used to address the challenges you were experiencing.
- Provide as many different ways to communicate (e.g. letters outlining topics covered, sharing parent-friendly expectations from Ministry of Education) and build relationships with parents in order to build trust with parents and help dispel any fears about the curriculum being age appropriate.
- Use of Appendix D on page 299 of the curriculum document shows the learning in a broader context and can help parents connect to the bigger picture and concepts.
- Use of the glossary at the back of the curriculum document can help with appropriate vocabulary to make students feel safe.
Parents/guardians play an important role in supporting students’ learning and well-being. They are the primary educators and first role models of their children with respect to learning about values, appropriate behaviour, ethnocultural, spiritual, personal beliefs and traditions. It is important for schools and parents to work together to ensure that home and school provide a mutually supportive framework for young peoples’ education.
As educators, how can we educate and support our students’ families to ensure that they have the knowledge to help them understand the value of this part of the curriculum? Share some supportive approaches when communicating the learning in Human Development and Sexual Health.
- Ensure that you value where parents are coming from and avoid assumptions.
- Share resources with parents early, and remind them that you are working with them to approach the Human Development and Sexual Health topic through a variety of lenses and that family values are important.
- Be accessible to parents/guardians so they can address questions and concerns. Use teachable moments to have a conversation, bridging the discussion from school to home.
- Share with parents how the Healthy Living Strand is laid out so that they see it is not taught in isolation, and that the learning is connected in other areas.
In the context of Human Development and Sexual Health, the role of the educator is to create an atmosphere in which students of all body shapes and sizes, abilities, gender identities, gender expressions, sexual orientations, ethnocultural, racial and religious backgrounds feel accepted, comfortable and free from harassment. Educators provide multiple opportunities in different school settings for students to transfer their knowledge, and help students understand their autonomy, what they can and cannot control, and therefore how they might cope/respond. As well, educators remind students of the importance of thinking carefully about decisions that could have a major impact on all parts of their lives (physically, emotionally, social, cognitive and spiritual). To students, educators are seen as a trusted source of information and are in an important position to connect with and help students find help if they need it. They can provide learning experiences that will enable students to make meaningful connections between what they already know and what they are learning, while integrating the learning with multiple curriculum areas, policies and/or programs such as Eco Schools, Safe and Caring Schools, Well Being Team.
- Ophea’s H&PE Curriculum Resources: Grades 1-8
- Ophea’s Student Voice Activate the Discussion
- Ophea’s Health and Physical Education Webinar Series
Ontario Ministry of Education
- 2019 Health and Physical Education Curriculum Grades 1-8
- The Ontario Ministry of Education’s “Information for Parents” website
- Policy/Program Memorandum Ministry of Education No. 162: Exemption from Instruction related to the Human Development and Sexual Health Expectations in The Ontario Curriculum: Health and Physical Education, Grades 1–8, 2019.
- The Ontario Ministry of Education’s Growing Success: Assessment, Evaluation and Reporting in Ontario Schools
Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario
Planned Parenthood Toronto
- Trans and Nonbinary Youth Inclusivity in Sexual Health: Guidelines for sexual health service providers and educators
Rainbow Health Ontario
SHORE Centre (Sexual Health Options Resources Education)
School Mental Health Ontario
- School Mental Health Ontario website
 Ontario Ministry of Education. (2019). The Ontario Curriculum Grades 1-8: Health and Physical Education (pg. 40). Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/2019-health-physical-education-grades-1to8.pdf