Sex Ed: Courtship to Conception, Flirting to Fertilization
It’s this overlap putting sex into context of the animal kingdom AND the context of their own lives, a bit of a broad sweep, but here’s my attempt at it.
During the movie/presentation part of this unit, I’m making an effort to have kids talk to each other as often as possible at their mixed gender table groups. Useful practice I hope, and keeps the energy level up. I’m also moving them about the room – come stand around the front, go back to your tables, come sit round the front with chairs and your notebooks etc. instead of a straight lecture/movie snooze day.
7th grade is a little before students at OIS are in the thick of sexual activity and some are confused about why they are learning about it right now. We do this purposely ahead of when they really, really need to know, with the idea they will be thinking more clearly now, and will have thought out their decisions a bit ahead of time. It’s interesting to ask what they have learned about puberty from elementary school, and to observe their attitudes about it. I’m careful not to ask questions that would expose personal information in front of the class.
Why’s it important for them to know about this at all? I tell a couple of stories from past times about what can happen when people are too embarrassed to talk about sex etc. Girls who think they are bleeding to death, men who were so startled by their wives nudity, they never had sex (this is a central plot line in a recent movie about John Ruskin called “Effie Grey”), girls told to ‘think of England’ in Victorian times, and the sad effects this could have on a marriage. People too shy to tell their doctor about a change in bowel movements, a breast lump or unusual discharges or discomfort, may miss the window of opportunity to treat cancer or serious STDs.
A straightforward, matter-of-fact approach to sex can be vital to a healthy partnership and actually lifesaving. I’m careful to share real stories, maybe from movies, history or books, or from relatives that have passed away, but I’m careful of course not to make the stories too personal.
We start with the biology – external fertilization in aquatic life from coral to fish and amphibians, then the need for internal fertilization in land animals like reptiles, fish and mammals – frog spawn would dry out on land, and egg shells could never allow sperm through. The kids gather around a diagram of the insides of a chicken and learn how chicken eggs are fertilized, made and laid. Then we look at mammals with a targeted sperm delivery system – the penis. I have a Notebook presentation for the Smart Board (here’s the pdf) so I can move stuff around and don’t shock them with flashing up a big weenie out of the blue.
The guiding question for watching Life’s Greatest Miracle from 7 minutes to about 20 minutes is “What is the pathway to conception?”. At the end, students share with each other what they thought about it, and then it’s time to do some labeling, arrowing and coloring on a male and female reproductive organs worksheet. They add to and check their work with a flip through the textbook chapter on human reproduction. Here are the answer sheets btw.