The Journey to Body Confidence

2019 DSEP Cadre Trainers

2019 DSEP Cadre Trainers

Written by Cairn Guidance, a Dove Self-Esteem Project Partner

 The theme for the Dove Self-Esteem Project’s (DSEP) 2019 Cadre Trainer Retreat was The Journey to Body Confidence.  Every human being takes this journey, most of which is probably not wholly conscious.  We become who we are by experiences, thought processes, and the significant lives that touch ours, amongst other things.  Does anyone just wake one day and know they are body confident?  It’s a process that probably ebbs and flows. 

A character in a movie, told another character who had just said something disparaging about themselves, if they didn’t like it, do something about it.  They weren’t seeing what the disparager saw, however, they honored where the person was and made a suggestion.  If there is something a person does not like within themselves, they have the power to change it.  Was the disparager basing their remarks on unfulfilled realistic personal goals or what they thought others expected or thought?  These were fictional adult characters.  However, how often do youth have this conversation and make changes based on the unrealistic expectations of others, such as their peers, or manipulated media images or messages?  How do adults, specifically educators, help students on their journey to adulthood? On their journey to body confidence and positive self-esteem?

The Dove Self-Esteem Project’s cadre trainers (cadre) came together in June for a day and a half retreat to focus on their role in this journey.  While some of the cadre provide direct services to students, they all focus on increasing awareness and implementation of the DSEP Confident Me! body confidence and self-esteem lessons, for 11 to 14-year-old students, to the educators who teach these youth.  The retreat was designed to recharge, increase knowledge and skills, and provide opportunities to network across cadre and within the cadre located in their region.  The cadre has grown to 25 professionals located across 23 states in each region of the United States.  They represent health and physical educators, school nurses, school social workers, school counselors, and prevention and wellness professionals.

To say they each understand the importance of the DSEP Confident Me! lessons is an understatement.  Being able to give educators tools to support the instruction of their students is a core of their mission.  They know there are students who are struggling with peer pressure, personal and professional social media issues, appearance ideas, etc.  They also know the DSEP Confident Me! lessons add value to the educator’s instruction.

Cadre share their message primarily via local, state and regional conference presentations and exhibits. They also write articles and blogs, as well as host webinars.  Many are an active presence on social media.  The retreat gave them the opportunity to learn from each other, collaborate and share ideas.  Their goal is to make The Journey to Body Confidence as positive and as seamless as possible for students through the educators who teach these students. 

How often do we as adults say something disparaging about ourselves to ourselves?  Learning about these lessons can remind us that we too may internalize unrealistic external measures regarding our appearance ideals.  We may offer compliments to other adults and our students based on how they look or how they dress, instead of honing in on those things that truly make the person who they are.  The DSEP Confident Me! lessons help educators adjust the way they offer recognition to their students, while helping students better value themselves and others and what makes them who they are as unique and contributing individuals.

The Dove Self-Esteem Project cadre trainers hope, when you learn they are present at your conference or meeting, that you stop by their presentations or exhibit booth.  If they write an article or blog, they hope you read it and take away some jewels.  If they host a webinar, they hope you attend.  Students do not learn as well when they do not feel the best about themselves.  They do not reach out and grow as well.  Students who do not feel the best about themselves may make poor choices.  Educators are there to help students become their best. The DSEP Confident Me! lessons are there as a support.  Visit Dove Self-Esteem Project to learn more about the no cost, researched, single and five-lesson curriculum.

Daniel Boone Rails to Trails- Building Connections to my New Home

It’s not often I have the opportunity to facilitate one of my favorite strategic planning activities in my own town of Morehead, Kentucky. I moved to Morehead from Portland Oregon (with a buffer year in Louisville) after falling in love with my life partner. Leaving a bicycling friendly, physically active town with a true culture of health to a small (7000 residents) Appalachian town was the biggest culture shock of my life. And, I’ve lived abroad in Curicó, Chile and Auckland, New Zealand! I could complain about the lack of recycling programs and arugula salad options. The lack of motorists who see cyclists and lack of access to the New York Times except for Sundays… however, that’s not who I am. I’m a glass is half-full type of gal and I embrace the journey I’m on, especially the one where I made the decision to pick up and leave for love.


I met my group of friends here because they mountain bike, or rock climb, or carry reusable grocery bags. They donate to the recycling center, enjoy lunchtime walks in my neighborhood, drink local brews and eat arugula salad. 😉 It’s the small things you find in common with people in a place where you don’t quite feel like you belong. Other than connecting with some amazing people that I genuinely love to be with, it’s important to me to contribute to the community I live in. I don’t know if we’ll live here forever, probably not full-time forever, but for the time being, I’m dedicated to living here and contributing in any way that I can.

I’ve been able to build relationships and trust with the school system to offer pro-bono professional development to the health teachers in the district. I sit on two advisory boards- one for the Innovation Launchpad (where we have our co-work space) and New Cities Morehead - a council of diverse stakeholders addressing livability measures in our county. Through New Cities, I met Scott Davison, an MSU Professor of Philosophy and member of our Rowan County School Board. Scott is also the President of the Daniel Boone Rails to Trails (DBRT) a non-profit promoting walking, hiking, and cycling in and around Morehead, KY. One of the projects the DBRT has desired to implement for a very long time is the Triplett Valley Trail, a multi-use path for walkers, hikers, cyclists and more. It would enhance livability and transportation options between the University and businesses downtown and be located along Triplett Creek downtown.

Scott and Connie Spencer-Ackerman (Treasurer/Secretary) reached out to me about facilitating a community event to build awareness of the DBRT and the Project, build interest and strategize to make this trail come to light. Obviously, the opportunity was a perfect marriage between my love and dedication to creating a culture of health in schools and communities as well as my background as a facilitator of strategic planning processes!

One break-out group working on their “Cover Story”

One break-out group working on their “Cover Story”

Drew Henderson and Pastor Alex Lockridge at the First Baptist Church graciously provided the space for us to hold the event. Mike Long, manager of KFC provided dinner for over 40 people. We had about 30 adults and six children come to the event, which we considered a huge success given the downpour of rain that began the hour prior. Community members came because they live close to the proposed trail, are avid walkers, or would like to increase the opportunity for physical activity here in the community. I was struck by the energy, passion and interest in the room!

Scott began the evening sharing about the history of the Daniel Boone Rails to Trails and its research on the project to date. He shared map renderings of the proposed phases of the trail and options in more challenging areas (passing over creeks, for example). This led us into my facilitation piece, around visioning. The larger group was split into three smaller groups to determine what news would be coming out of Morehead in 5 years from now if the Triplett Creek Trail were to be successful. The energy from these three groups was amazing! People had so much fun thinking ‘out of the box’ and creatively thinking about what this project might do for our town and community as a whole. The activity is meant for people to have fun, be creative and get to know each other a bit more. Groups talked about 5K Race opportunities and increase of college students walking to dinner and the movies rather than driving. The groups discussed how health insurance rates would drop and a sense of community would increase. The ideas were creative, fun and many that could lead to concrete ideas for a strategic plan. Many people left saying they met some new folks and confidently shared they would want to stay involved.

Many people asked when the next meeting would be, so I want to share that we will be hosting our next meeting on Monday, August 19 from 6-8. Location TBD, but hopefully same location. Our plan is to work on strengths, problems, opportunities and threats related to the proposal trail and project. We want public health, law enforcement, transportation, businesses, university and hospital representatives, parents, neighbors, educators to come and provide input. The more awareness and education we can build around the project, the likelihood it will be successful through its inception to implementation!

I also want to give a public shout out to Jessi Robinson at Print & Pixel in Mt Sterling, KY for offering her time pro-bono to develop our information flyer for the event!

Team Highlight & Cairn Project Updates

Team Highlight
Samantha has been a member of the Cairn Guidance team since 2016 and is excited to continue!
Samantha Lowe McCleese is a graduate of Morehead State University’s Experimental Psychology master’s program. Originally from Maysville, Kentucky she has been a resident of Eastern Kentucky her entire life. Growing up in Appalachian culture sparked Samantha’s interest in sex education, and she later went on to further research the topic in her Master’s research project; A Vagina is an Ugly Duckling: Metaphors for Sex Education.
During her time with Cairn Guidance she has worked on multiple projects and has had the opportunity to travel the United States for the Dove Self-Esteem Project. Samantha also works as a Behavior Specialist, where she helps individuals and families with diagnosed disabilities reach their full potential and personal goals.
Samantha currently lives in Morehead, Kentucky with her two dogs, Tesla and Petie. When Samantha has free time you can find her hula-hooping, hanging out with plants, or spending quality time with her husband.

Cairn Guidance has been working on some exciting projects over the summer!

  • Based on pilot teachers and expert reviewers, we are finalizing the AXE Brand Generation Unlabeled lessons on gender roles, bias and conformity.

  • We continue to work with the Dove Self-Esteem Project by promoting their no-cost middle school program addressing body confidence and image.

  • We are working in partnership with Advocates for Youth to write K-12 Sexual Health lessons & assessments, including HIV Prevention for NYC Department of Education

  • Our work the JED Foundation continues to expand. We just finished a analysis using CDCs HECAT to review nine high school curricula on mental health and suicide prevention. We'll be presenting a poster session at American School Health Association conference on this work in October.

  • Kevin Lorson at Wright State University and Cairn Guidance have partnered for over a year to work with seven districts/counties in Ohio through a Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child approach focusing on mental health and addiction. It's been a joy to help facilitate this journey for these districts and we are excited about the possibility of expanding the work next year!

  • We will be training leaders at JSI this summer to build their internal capacity to facilitate the Systems Thinking; Systems Changing simulation. They fund districts in NY state to address obesity in a school setting and want to be able to bring grantees through the simulation.

  • Locally, we are helping start a KAHPERD health education cadre of trainers. Jess will be working with 5 health education teachers from around Kentucky to increase professional development offerings to other health educators in the state.

Supporting Trans and Gender Non-Conforming Students with Pride (ASCD Webinar)

Super glad I was on ASCD’s webinar today on supporting transgender and gender non-conforming students in schools. It was great to see people sharing where they were joining in from in the group chat - from all over the world!

Two speakers led the webinar- Becca Mui from GLSEN and Vanessa Ford, a Board member of the National Center for Transgender Equality. They started by defining key terms to get everyone on the same page.

ASCD’s slide asking participants to reflect on these questions.

ASCD’s slide asking participants to reflect on these questions.

This video of non-binary high school students sharing their experience and how they define non-binary would be helpful for any educator. The presenters asked us to reflect on the questions on the Gender Reflection image. Considering what my gender expression would have been considered 100 years ago was a huge A-HA. I would have definitely been labeled as non-binary versus a cis-gender woman as I think I’d be labeled now. Fascinating reflection.

“Genderism or gender binarism, is the system of oppression that perpetuates the cultural belief that gender is a binary, or that there are, or should be, only two genders — man and woman — and that the aspects of one's gender are inherently linked to the sex in which they were assigned at birth. Male and female are favored genders which makes it difficult for people that are non-conforming.”

Educating educators on this topic is essential. It’s amazing that in 2019 people are still homophobic and gender-phobic. Regardless of what you believe, LGB youth feeling unsafe is a public health issue. Not a value issue, or a religious issue. But, a public health issue. All students should feel safe and be able to thrive at school. No matter who they are. In fact, they should feel embraced through policies, practices, language and programs that send consistently healthy messages to all genders.

ASCDs slide showing that LGB students are more at risk.

ASCDs slide showing that LGB students are more at risk.

If you are interested in the PPT from the webinar and resources, email me at and I’d be willing to share. They should be on ASCDs website shortly as well!

Meeting, Greeting and Impacting SHAPE Tampa Conference Participants

SHAPE Tampa Attendees at the DSEP Exhibit Booth

SHAPE Tampa Attendees at the DSEP Exhibit Booth

Written by Cairn Guidance, a Dove Self-Esteem Project Partner

The Dove Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) had an impactful presence at the recently held SHAPE Tampa conference. Information was shared on the project via an extremely well attended session and a very busy exhibit booth. DSEP cadre trainers Michelle Rawcliffe and Dawn Graff-Haight provided an informative and interactive session which led many of the attendees to visit the exhibit booth to declare their intent to implement the DSEP Confident Me! lessons.

Cadre trainers Mary Wentland, Michelle Rawcliffe, and DSEP Cadre Coordinator Antionette Meeks greeted both health and physical education professionals and students majoring in the profession.  One of the notable “ah-ha’s” was hearing the college students share their familiarity with DSEP through their courses.  Many educators already using the lessons in their classrooms also stopped by to share their thanks and value of the lessons.  Still others stopped by or were encouraged to stop by the booth to learn how to support their body confidence and self-esteem efforts.  Those new to DSEP were often happy to learn the lessons are research-based, available at no cost, and easy to incorporate.

The energy and excitement surrounding attendees was almost palpable.  The spark of interest in the eyes of those learning about DSEP or sharing their experiences markedly impressed upon the booth hosts the meaningfulness of DSEP to these educators and the impact on their students.  Hearing these comments cemented what the booth hosts already knew:  DSEP produces positive outcomes for students.  Students experience a lot as they matriculate through school and an unfortunate by-product along the way may be a lack of body confidence and poor self-esteem.  DSEP uses interactive tools and experiences to help students strengthen their self-esteem and improve their body confidence.

Educators understand the need for students to not only be physically present, but to be mentally and emotionally present, prepared and ready to learn.  While there may be many reasons why students may not be ready to engage in the learning process, DSEP focuses on building and supporting body confidence and positive self-esteem.  Often students may look outside of themselves seeking approval from their peers and center on physical appearance versus the depth of who they are as individuals.

Several educators and future educators who visited the DSEP exhibit booth opted to share personal characteristics or what they appreciate about themselves via social media.  It was not about how they looked, what they wore, or their choice of hairstyles.  Please search #DoveSelfEsteem tagged with #SHAPETampa to read these powerful posts.

To learn more about DSEP, visit the Dove Self-Esteem Project website. To be entered to win an all-expenses paid trip to attend the SHAPE 2020 conference in Utah or another national professional convention, please email for more information.

Announcing A New Partnership with AXE!

 AXE wants young men to grow up confident in their own brand of masculinity.

Cairn Guidance is pleased to announce a new partnership with AXE to address gender stereotypes, bias and harassment by offering a no-cost program, Generation Unlabeled, for the school setting. Our partnership and new curriculum was publicly announced at SHAPE America in Tampa last month with a sponsorship of the General Session, a performance by Carlos Andrés Gómez and a vendor booth in the exhibit hall.

 You probably think of AXE as the body spray that your students layer on in the hallways, but they’re much more than that! As the go-to grooming brand for middle and high schoolers who are learning to style for themselves, AXE offers a wide range of grooming items including deodorant, body wash, and hair products designed to help guys look and feel their best.

However, they recognize that some of the ads they created in the early 2000’s negatively reinforced stereotypes that would not be acceptable by today’s standards. In 2015, AXE went back to better understand the effects of negative stereotypes on their core young male audience. Partnering with Promundo, a global research leader, they conducted a study and found that 72% of young guys reported being put in the “Man Box,” a set of beliefs about masculinity that place pressure on men to act a certain way. Along with other findings, this statistic helped AXE reinforce their core mission to inform young men that there’s no one way to be a man.

Carlos Andrés Gómez introducing the partnership at the SHAPE Tampa General session.

Carlos Andrés Gómez introducing the partnership at the SHAPE Tampa General session.

Armed with research, they re-worked their marketing campaigns to champion a portrayal of guys that don’t fit traditional standards of masculinity (see “Is It Ok For Guys…” on YouTube). From there, AXE brought this message into high schools through their Senior Orientation program, an in-school workshop that encourages students to shape their school culture through self-expression and inclusivity with the help of marquee talent partners like John Legend and Super Duper KYLE. Now in 2019, they’re taking their mission a step further...   

Building on the success of its Senior Orientation programs, AXE now wants to reach students at an earlier age before they’re exposed to the social pressures of high school with the creation of this specialized curriculum that will be implemented in middle school health classes across the nation. Generation Unlabeled’s four interactive lesson plans cover a range of topics – from toxic masculinity and gender stereotypes to harassment – asking students to analyze today’s society and culture, themselves, and conclude with a call to action, like creating a new school policy. By directly educating teens and empowering young men to define what masculinity means for themselves, our goal is to foster the first generation of students to grow up in a society without toxic masculinity.

Our team represented by Edelman, Cairn Guidance and Carlos Andrés Gómez

Our team represented by Edelman, Cairn Guidance and Carlos Andrés Gómez

As an educator, you have the opportunity to create environments where students thrive so they can win at education. Part of your role supporting young people in schools is about creating healthy and safe classrooms and teaching students using relevant and current health education curricula.
Items given away at the AXE booth at SHAPE America.

Items given away at the AXE booth at SHAPE America.

These no-cost lessons will be available this summer, so please keep in touch. We will be offering incentives to those that implement the lessons in the classroom, as well as looking for pilot teachers to provide on-going feedback and student work samples to ensure this program is creating the outcomes we hope to achieve!

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact us at

A Message from Liz: Growth Requires Taking a Risk

Growth and evolution is a constant process that involves taking risk and getting out of your comfort zone. This is why I am excited to announce that I am spreading my wings and launching Matchstick Consulting, a small consulting firm based in Portland, Oregon. Our mission is to help organizations and communities create the spark they need to ensure people are healthy, connected and thriving.

It is (a little) easier to take this risk because I am surrounded by partners and colleagues that share my passion for health, education and helping young people reach their full potential. I am grateful for the support and love I have received from Jess and the rest of the Cairn Guidance team.  Cairn Guidance and Matchstick Consulting will continue to collaborate as partners, and I look forward to contributing meaningful work and growing together in this next chapter.

And the need for our work has never felt more immediate. I am honored to join the ranks of professionals and organizations working to create a healthier, more just world. Find out more at or reach out to

In Health,



Thrilled to be joining the Cairn Guidance Team!

By Casey Hazlett

Hello from Seattle, WA! My name is Casey Hazlett and I’m thrilled to be joining the Cairn Guidance team as our new Chief Operating Officer. When I first met Jess in 2008, I was drawn to her positive energy and expertise in school health. I had no idea that over 10 years later I would be lucky enough to work with Jess as part of the Cairn Guidance team. At that time, I was part of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a national non-profit working with schools, youth-serving organizations, and businesses, to build healthier communities and empower kids to develop lifelong healthy habits. I was working on the Healthy Schools Program (HSP) to develop the information and data tracking systems to grow the program in schools across the US.

Casey Hazlett_1.jpg

 After three years on the HSP team, I had the chance to become the Operations and Finance Director, where we set-up systems and processes for the organization to become an independent 501(c)(3). It was a time of growth as we developed new finance, operations, benefits and technology systems. In 2010, wanting to gain experience in the programmatic work, I transitioned to the Healthy Out-of-School Time Initiative where we provided training and professional development to after-school programs to implement national healthy eating and physical activity standards. I supported a team of nine leaders to drive change and create healthy environments for youth across the US.

I’ve always been dedicated and enthusiastic about organizing, setting up systems, and helping things run smoothly. With these passions, I decided to change course a bit to build and run a productivity and organizing business where I developed a unique process to create sustainable systems for clients in Portland.

In 2018, my husband and I, along with our black lab Gabby, transitioned up to Seattle for his career. That transition provided the opportunity to reflect on my next career step and when the opportunity to join the Cairn Guidance team came up, I felt like it was a perfect fit! I look forward to working with the Cairn team and our clients to build systems, develop solutions and support open communication channels that allow us to collaborate with teachers, students and partners so that all young people can grow and succeed in healthy communities. I love that I get to combine my passion for systems, process and continuous improvement to increase opportunities for youth to be healthy, happy and thrive.

Educator Professional Development Provides Opportunities to Connect with and Teach Today’s Students

Written by Cairn Guidance, a Dove Self-Esteem Project partner

Attending professional development that is well organized, on-target and recognizes the needs of the adult learners can bring on exciting new skills and re-energize the participant.  Professional development provided by a school, district, state, regional or national organization can open the door to new ideas, innovations, or the retooling of existing ideas, strategies or teaching methods. 

Educators often reach into their “hat” or “bag” of teaching strategies designed to support and enrich learning, grabbing hold of ways to better teach a concept or better meet the needs of their students. Professional learning communities (PLCs), school and district in-person offerings, online or virtual professional development experiences and opportunities to learn and grow through attendance at state, regional or national conferences can increase educator knowledge and skills.  Dove Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) shows its support of educator growth by participating in many professional development opportunities.

Thousands of health and physical educators will be heading to Tampa, Florida April 9-13, 2019 for the SHAPE America’s (Society of Health and Physical Educaters) national conference. And so will DSEP! We will be facilitating a session on April 11, 2019 at 11:15 a.m.  This session will introduce attendees to the lessons, explain why they are needed, and how to implement them.  Participants will engage in a hands-on experience and learn how the interactive lessons help students improve their body confidence and self-esteem.  DSEP will also be located at Booth 317 where conference attendees can receive a copy of the lesson, ask questions and connect with other educators who have implemented the lessons across the country.

Like you, DSEP knows students that struggling with body confidence and self-esteem issues may not perform well in academics, they may miss school, not engage well with peers, not participate in clubs/organizations/athletics or they may not freely engage in large group, classroom, discussions. Having the desire to provide students with the best academic environment coincides with supporting their need to feel competent and confident. Stop by our booth to get a copy of the program and connect with passionate educators just like you.

DSEP Confident Me!  single and five-lesson curriculum provide a no cost, interactive way to help 11-to-14-year-old students delve into the issue of poor body confidence and self-esteem.  Educators have a tool designed to help them help their students experience a brighter and more realistic picture of who they are and what they offer.  They are unique, talented, knowledgeable, and skillful individuals.  They are valued.  Students learn how to value and appreciate themselves and others, as well as becoming more compassionate and thoughtful peers. Please visit DSEP at Dove Self-Esteem Project to learn more about the research-based lessons and how they support educator efforts to help students achieve at their highest levels.  We hope you join the many educators across the United States who implement these lessons with their 11-to-14-year-old students.

When Teachers are Resistant to Change…

We all have resistance to change. It’s scary and unknown and we are creatures of habit, routine and comfort. The habitual brain is actually part of a survival technique. If we had to truly think through every step of everything we do each day as if it were our first time doing it, we wouldn’t get anything done. If you haven’t read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, I strongly suggest you do.

We need not only skills-based health education, but skills-progression health education.

Many best practices or updated lessons don’t get implemented as a result of many reasons:
• Teachers hardly receive the amount of professional development they need to guide new practices, try new things and develop innovative, relevant approaches.
• Teachers do not have the time or energy. Being a teacher is so emotionally and physically exhausting. I wore a pedometer when I taught and averaged 8 miles of steps in a day. That’s the physical exhaustion. The emotional stress of working with over 100 children with 100 different needs is a challenge, both rewarding and leaves you with not much else to give to planning, changing, adapting and innovating.
• Many teachers do not have the support due to a lack of job-alike positions. In many schools, there is one health or physical educator, not a whole team to collaborate with.
• Lack of funding to purchase evidence-based materials/curricula is rare/minimal.
• Systems are in place as a result of textbooks lobbyists that keep evidence-based curricula from even getting on the state adopted/approved lists (don’t get me going on that one!).

These reasons that prevent educators from excelling, innovating, varying their curricula are out of teachers hands in many cases. Although, if you’re the only health teacher at your middle school, the opportunity to engage on social media, watch webinars, listen to podcasts, read books can help with a decrease in isolation.

However, I want to focus on resistance to change. I’m talking about the teacher that teaches the same 10 tobacco prevention lessons for five years in a row without adapting, updating, or determining if the students need it the way it’s always been taught. In the business world, people adapt their approaches to marketing, processes, creating, communicating constantly. They have to, to make a profit. Teachers are held accountable, but it’s not a profit like a business. I mean, the health and education of students is, but even then, I think we can do better.

Teachers that teach health education sometimes give our profession a bad name. And, I hate saying that, because I want to embrace all of them and give them tons of PD and help them teach through the lens of effective practices. However, it’s true. So many teachers are still using old practices and teaching from textbooks (and trust me, I’ve reviewed all the ones ya’ll think are good- they aren’t. They are FULL of un-functional knowledge that students do NOT need to know in order to lead to behavior changes). The amount of content is ridiculous and unimportant. If you want students to drink more water, they do not need to draw their digestive system and color it in. If you want students to learn about the harm of secondhand smoke, they don’t need to know what the chemicals look like under a microscope or even, really, how to spell the chemical names. I’m not going to mention these textbooks by name, but let’s just say, none made the cut when reviewing for a State DOE (un-named) through the lens of comprehensive skill-based health education. Do they incorporate the skill-standards? Yes, many do. But, it typically looks like this at the middle and high school level- 11 pages of content and one skill activity at the end. That is NOT skills-based health education. There is no logical skill progression over the lessons in order. There’s no scope and sequence that tells, you, the teacher, when the skill is introduced, reinforced and mastered. There are rarely rubrics and performance checklists. So, I urge you to ditch the textbook, or encourage your district to not buy it in the future. Save the thousands of dollars and purchase something stronger. Or, develop something on your own.

Textbooks don’t allow you to actually make local data-driven curricular decisions. They are written with assumptions on what your students need to know, when they need to know it and how. I’m not suggesting teachers change everything at once. Maybe take one unit and really look at the skill you want to incorporate and use RMC Health’s Health Skills Models (trust me- these are awesome!) to look at your grade level band to determine what mastery looks like for that skill. Check out the rubrics that accompany that skill. And, build a unit using a progression of the skill (see the Health Skill Model- it outlines it out!) and use content (unit topic) as context for teaching the skill. In fact, I guarantee the skill practice is more important than the content taught.

If you want to see an example of a high school unit with skill progression around analyzing influences- check this out. I wrote this unit (fee/accessible to all!) from the perspective of the unit being about the skill, not the content. So, I understand that may be a leap that’s too far for many of you, and that’s ok. Look at the 5 lessons and the assessment to see how much emphasis is put on the skill. Starting with the assessment (lesson 6) in mind, I developed the lessons to lead up to it. Lesson 1 begins here. There’s a menu at top to view the rest. I’m working on a middle school unit now- so stay tuned. Since I know it’s nice to have examples, here is the scope and sequence I’ve developed for middle school. This shouldn’t be your scope and sequence, since you need to use your own student data to inform when topics and skills should be taught. However, it’s an example.

So- as far as resistance to change... I’m not saying to teach all units through the skills lens versus content. I know as a field, we aren’t there and we don’t know if it actually works. However, I am asking that teachers push themselves to use local, county, state health YRBS data to drive what their students need, and focus on skills-progression. Not only skills-based health education, but skills-progression health education. What are the steps that students have the opportunity to practice multiple times through a planned scaffolding approach? Consider that and see where there might be gaps in your program!