Family Life Education
The Family Life Education program in Newport News Public Schools has been designed to ensure that students receive the comprehensive, sequential, and age-appropriate instruction outlined in Family Life Education, Board of Education Guidelines and Standards of Learning for Virginia Public Schools. A summary of Elementary Family Life Education topics is located in the Rights and Responsibilities Handbook. These lessons are taught at various times throughout the entire school year. Some of the learning objectives are met through lessons taught by classroom teachers. (For more information regarding the lessons and videos presented by classroom teachers, Please go to this link: Family Life Education Summary) In order to provide maximum consistency and instructional expertise regarding certain topics, two Elementary Family Life Education Specialists travel to twenty-three elementary schools in the school system to provide lessons to students in the third, fourth, and fifth grades.
Prior to these lessons taught by the specialists, letters are sent home to parents and guardians to inform them of the dates and times of presentations and to invite them to the classes. The Family Life Specialists strongly encourage students to discuss class content with parents or guardians. While all questions are received in an accepting manner by the instructor, in the event that sensitive questions are asked that are beyond the scope of the instruction, students are encouraged to take the question to adult family members. Parents and guardians have the right to review the Family Life Education program offered by their school division, including written and audio-visual educational materials used in the program. Parents and guardians also have the right to excuse their child from all or part of Family Life Education instruction. The following paragraphs describe the instruction provided by these specialists.
Correct terminology for body parts is presented in a thirty-minute lesson. Boys and girls are separated for these classes. Both internal organs, such as the heart and stomach, and external parts, such as the chest and abdomen, are discussed. Private body parts are identified as the parts covered by a bathing suit and emphasis is placed on the concept of privacy and appropriate reasons for others to see or touch private parts. Also, the children are taught that it takes both a mother and a father to make a baby, a baby grows in a special place in the mother for nine months and has an umbilical cord, and the umbilical cord is the reason that everyone has a belly button or navel. This is an age-appropriate introduction to reproduction and is not an explanation of the sexual process.
Fourth grade students are separated into boys’ and girls’ classes to receive a ninety-minute lesson covering puberty and also the immune system and AIDS. Students watch a video (Always Changing – Girls or Always Changing – Boys) which discusses the physical and emotional changes experienced during puberty. (At this level, the students are not taught about the changes experienced by the opposite sex.) The physical and emotional changes are also reviewed extensively by the specialist, with an emphasis on the fact that the process is normal but varies in timing from person to person. Reproductive anatomy is discussed, and good health practices are emphasized. Social pressures and protective strategies are also covered.
The second video presented (AIDS and the Immune System) portrays in a sympathetic way the social issues faced by a boy infected with the AIDS virus as an infant. The video also presents thorough information regarding the spread of infectious disease in general, the functioning of the immune system, and the way that the AIDS virus destroys the immune system. Emphasis is placed on the fact that this virus is not spread by casual contact. The instructor reinforces the video with age-appropriate information and reviews the ways that HIV is and is not spread. This instruction does not involve discussion of specific sexual practices.
In all areas of instruction, children are encouraged to ask questions in class, but are always advised that parents and other trusted adults are available to answer questions that are not covered in the material.
Puberty and HIV:Fifth grade students are again separated into classes for boys and classes for girls, although all classes watch the same videos. Students receive two ninety-minute lessons taught by the Family Life Specialists. The first covers puberty and HIV, and the second covers reproduction. The video which presents information regarding puberty covers the changes experienced by both boys and girls. (The video is titled: It's a Change Thing) Physical and emotional changes are addressed, and reproductive anatomy is reviewed. Hygiene, nutrition, and issues such as social pressures are also covered. In addition, strategies to avoid exploitation and abuse are reviewed.
During the HIV/AIDS portion of the class, a video (HIV and AIDS: Staying Safe) is presented which explains how HIV destroys the immune system and results in the disease AIDS. The video also provides discussion regarding misconceptions that people have about the spread of HIV and information about how to avoid the risk of infection. The information is age-appropriate and specific sexual practices are not discussed. Again, the Family Life Specialist reinforces the information presented.
Reproduction: The second class in the fifth grade covers the topic of reproduction. Basic principles of heredity are presented as the topics of cell division, chromosomes, genes, and DNA are introduced. The video (Fertilization and Birth) begins with the joining of egg and sperm and presents information regarding the reproduction of several types of animals, before moving on to the reproduction of humans. Reproductive anatomy, fetal development and the process of birth is presented in animation. In both the video and the class discussions, the importance of the care of the mother and infant are emphasized, along with parental responsibility. Abstinence is stressed as the only sure way to avoid the responsibilities of parenthood until one is an adult. Students are also made aware that there are many infections that are spread sexually and that abstinence is again the best way to avoid these diseases.
For more information regarding these lessons, please contact Nancy Adams at 283-7865 or Susan DeVane at 283-7866.