Sex Ed Refreshed: Sex Stats, Teen Brains and Courtship
For years, I’ve been teaching this the same way, but this year, with the addition of notebooks, I can be more flexible and creative. It’s a sometimes dreaded piece of the curriculum for many teachers but for me, it’s a really fun and important culminating unit, taught after genetics.
I’ll put up the guiding questions and the resources. I often have students discuss and predict the answers first, then review the resources, discuss with a friend, discuss with the class briefly, then write the answer to the question in their journals.
The other key piece of successful sex ed is to circulate around the room all the time, to listen in, to set a friendly tone and to be available for questions that arise.
1. What’s the good news/Bad news about teen sex and pregnancy?
I include a quick discussion of the negative stereotypes of the word ‘teenager’. I provide this link from the Guttmacher Institute “American Teens Sexual and Reproductive Health Fact Sheet” which is updated every year with statistics from the CDC, the WHO, the US Bureau of the Census and and is a go-to for policy makers.
Let students discover that good news is really surprising. The rates of teen sexual activity, teen pregnancy has dropped significantly over the last 15 years or so in the US. The bad news is that it’s still a lot higher than in other developed nations.
2. Why are teenagers impulsive?
What does the word ‘teenager’ mean to many adults? What is the point of the teenage years? And how does your teenage brain actually HELP? Watch the TEDx talk by Adriana Galvan “Insight into the Teenage Brain‘. It’s no surprise to teachers that teenagers experience more joy with new experiences, and that’s verifiable at a brain level. The hightened enjoyment of new experiences makes teens more likely to want to do those experiences again, and to seek ever more new ones. It motivates them to get out of the house, to make new friends, to expand their horizons and to move away from their parents into their own, big world. That’s the plus side. And of course it also makes them more vulnerable to addiction and to dangerous decisions because their pre-frontal cortex that regulates emotion and helps them think ahead is not fully developed.
3. What’s the point of courtship?
Review the point of life… is to get more genes into the next generation. What exactly is courtship? I show the cute hedgehog mating rituals from David Attenborough and link courtship to bird song and how courtship allows animals to find a mate of the same species, and then select the mate with the ‘best’ genes. Finally, cue the start of “Life’s Greatest Miracle” to the first 7 minutes.