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 info@cairnguidance.com

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!

Leveraging Every Student Succeeds Act $$ to Support the Whole Child

Tomorrow, Liz Thorne and I will be headed to our first ESEA Conference in Kansas City. The National ESEA Conference is an annual project of the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators and the largest conference focused on federal education programs for disadvantaged students. The Conference emphasizes the critical nature of doing what’s right and what’s needed today – to help every child succeed and achieve at high levels.

Our workshop proposal, Leveraging Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) Dollars to Support the Whole Child was accepted in a 90 minute slot on Wednesday from 11:30-1pm. Our workshop will bring participants through engaging activities including understanding ASCDs Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child framework, reviewing our analyses of each states’s ESSA plans through the lens of the whole child & school health & finally provide participant’s with success stories at the state and local level on how State Education Agencies and local districts have supported the whole child using ESSA funding. Some of these stories include:

  • Using Title IV dollars to purchase comprehensive health education curricula such as ETRs HealthSmart;

  • Using Title II dollars to send teachers to the SHAPE America National Convention for professional development for physical education, health education, recreation and dance; and

  • Using Title IV dollars to implement a pilot mental health initiative in 10 elementary schools.

We are looking forward to learning more from our peers in the field in how more districts and schools can support the whole child and leverage federal program funds to do it!

Meet Nanci Coolen, DSEP Regional Incentive Award Winning Middle School Physical Educator

 By Antionette Meeks of Cairn Guidance, a Dove Self-Esteem Project Partner

I am the luckiest teacher in the world! I teach 150 middle school girls and they are awesome!”

Nanci Coolen is a middle school physical education teacher in the state of Hawaii.  She has been teaching middle school for fifteen years.  If there is anything she has noticed, it is that girls need to learn how to develop confidence and love themselves.  She believes her students are constantly bombarded with social media, stress, pressure, and have virtually every part of society telling them that they should look and act a certain way.

Nanci offers kudos to the Dove Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) and its Confident Me! lessons designed to get the valuable message about body confidence and positive self-esteem out. After discovering the content is research-based, she spent some time prepping for the single lesson version, including copying handouts, preparing her thoughts, and gathering magazines and materials for the lesson.  DSEP offers two different ways to teach Confident Me! by using the single lesson or five lesson curriculum.  The single lesson can be taught as a stand-alone lesson, as with Nanci’s students, or as a booster after the five-lessons have been taught.

The lesson itself took approximately one hour to teach – this is a fluid number – you could go faster or take longer depending upon the depth and breadth of your discussions. Two hours – two amazing hours of my time to teach these girls how to identify society’s pressures, how to notice what the media does to ads and things to make them look ‘perfect,’ and to discuss strategies and make goals to believe in themselves and to be more confident, self-loving people! Two hours well spent, I would say!

She plans on teaching this lesson again. Next year, she will include the boys (her school gender splits their classes).  After teaching this to the girls, Nanci knows self-esteem is something the boys need to know, as well – either as students who are experiencing these things or to know what the girls are going through.

Nanci finds the lessons are well-written, easy to follow, research-based, and so worth the time it takes to teach these valuable lessons!  Her girls enjoyed the lesson very much and made comments such as “I am not going to let the media tell me what I am supposed to look like,” “girl power,” “thank you for teaching me this – I didn’t know what they did to these ads to make them look perfect,” and “how am I supposed to live up to an image that isn’t even real?” – these comments made it all worthwhile.

DSEP appreciates Nanci’s message to other educators and is honored to recognize her as one of four 2017 national incentive award winners.

If you implemented the DSEP Confident Me! Lessons this year, you can be entered to the 2018 incentive drawing to have a chance at winning all expense paid professional development to a national or regional conference. The drawing will take place in December 2018. Email Samantha at samantha@cairnguidance.com to be entered in. It’s our way of saying thank you for teaching the DSEP Confident Me! lessons.  For more information, please visit the website at Dove Self-Esteem Project.

I would highly recommend everyone to take the time to teach this important message – kids today need this now more than ever!

Another Reactive Legislative Bill Isn't Going to Help

With so little time to teach health education and so many content areas being added annually, health education instruction is not as not as effective as it could be. Meth bills, opioid bills, bullying prevention bills... is that really the answer? Putting more pressure on health teachers to teach more content?

From  School Health Profiles , page 11

Let me be honest... students are getting severely minimal health education to begin with. Like, embarrassingly small amounts of time focusing on one of the most important areas of one's life- health & well-being. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention School Health Profiles Survey, there is a large discrepancy of secondary schools that taught a required health education course 6th-12th grades. Some states do not require a credit in health education for graduation and many middle school students receive less than 9 weeks of health education throughout their middle school tenure.

As more and more state bills are introduced to intervene on public health crises, more content is added to the health teachers' plate. A plate that is typically full to begin with since there isn't enough time allotted to the content area.

To add to the lack of time for health education, many health teachers are not highly qualified/certified and in some cases, the science or PE teacher is asked to teach health, whether or not they have a degree or certification in the area. Non-qualified teachers teaching health are less likely to teach certain subjects (lack of comfort or knowledge on finding strong materials & resources) and many have not had training in answering difficult questions, skills-based health education pedagogy and the evidence-based practices in the field.

A health teachers plate- over 10 content areas and 7 skills (in pink).

A health teachers plate- over 10 content areas and 7 skills (in pink).

Teaching a 2 day unit on promotion of healthy eating to expect that students gain the functional information and skills they need to eat breakfast everyday, select nutrient-rich snack and meals, drink water, eat fruits and veggies is not realistic. A math teacher doesn't spend two days on the addition unit and move on. There is a logical progression and application over time that is integrated in through hours of study. Health education should consist of units that are taught specifically to address concerning data points of student health behavior and to help support the maintenance of health promoting behaviors. Meaning, 2-day units aren't going to cut it. But, if you haven't had strong professional development in the content area and you aren't even a certified health teacher, you might not know that isn't effective. Units should be a couple weeks in length and I believe they should be more focused on skill-building than content anyway. Most legislative bills focus on content without any specific skill-building aspects aligned to health education. 

I'm not saying passing legislative bills isn't the way to go. It really is a great opportunity. But, I'd like legislators and even public health content specialists passionate about addressing a public health crisis to understand health education pedagogy and the National Health Standards of which ONE is content specific, and SEVEN are skills-based (analyzing influences, accessing information, interpersonal communication, decision making, goal setting, self-management and advocacy).

Bills that legislators might introduce that will help health education, and therefore prevent drug use and other public health crisis might have language that includes something like...

  • Comprehensive health education K-12 is taught sequentially through a locally develop scope and sequence aligned to the state content standards and informed by local data driven decisions on adolescent health behaviors. The minimum minute requirements are: 
    • Elementary School: 45 minutes/week
    • Middle School: 90 minutes/week
    • High School: 90 minutes/week
  • Health education should be skills-focused in which students are spending 75% of instructional time within a course on practicing and demonstrating the seven National Health Education Skill Standards.
  • Health teachers should be highly qualified to teach health education.
  • Health teachers should have access to content-specific professional development opportunities at least twice a year.
  • Health teachers should use research-based curriculum with specific behavioral outcomes to teach health education.
  • Health teachers should have access to professional development on creating a trauma-informed classroom while teaching sensitive topics.
  • And, then finally- include the functional information that students need to know in order to prevent the public health crisis.

In conclusion, I end with a question... How do we as a field, educate our passionate lawmakers to write bills that are effective and appropriate instead of knee-jerk reactions to an epidemic or event? 

 

Health Education Blog Post Series Part 1: Health Education Needs a New Identity

The entire K-12 content area or discipline of health education needs a new identity. My generation and older remembers health ed as the class where you learned to Just Say No, or that having sex means you'll have blisters on your genitalia. We remember reading Chapter 11 on smoking cigarettes and answering 5 questions at the end of the chapter to assess our knowledge that smoking is bad.

Unfortunately, health education has continued to be branded in peoples' minds as drug ed and sex ed. Those embarrassing activities or conversations that felt uncomfortable and forced. And sadly, due to a lack of professional development and support to people teaching health, how health was taught 30 years ago is still happening today. 

If the goal of K-12 school health education is health literacy, the ability for students to use, analyze, interpret, access, advocate for resources, information and products that are health-enhancing, we still have a long way to go. Many of the textbooks, activities and instructional methods used are about teaching content and it's time we leave those practices behind.

Fortunately, over the years, we have more adolescent brain research to understand how the tween/teen brain makes decisions (or fails to). Teenagers behave in irrational and sometimes harmful ways and we question why. Science proves that many times, it's because making decisions and solving problems isn't thought out like the fully mature adult brain. Brains continue to mature through young adulthood, in fact, the frontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act, develops later.

An article on the Teen Brain: Behavior, Problem Solving, and Decision Making by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry shares that based on the stage of their brain development, adolescents are more likely to:
-act on impulse
-misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions
-get into accidents of all kinds
-get involved in fights
-engage in dangerous or risky behavior

Adolescents are less likely to:
-think before they act
-pause to consider the consequences of their actions
-change their dangerous or inappropriate behaviors

Some health teachers aren't aware of the research, nor are organizations, content specialists and non-profits that are writing content for health education. This is not to point blame, but rather, due to the lack of knowledge and professional development support. Much of the curriculum out there is still based on assuming youth can make great decisions every time if they just read about the risks and dangers.

Health education has gone through quite a paradigm shift. Teachers are just catching up.

Health education has gone through quite a paradigm shift. Teachers are just catching up. Understanding the adolescent brain is one piece of research that has been helpful, but another shift is skills-based instruction, learning, demonstrating and assessment. We've started to ask better questions...

  • Does answering 5 questions correctly at the end of a tobacco unit mean that the student will have excellent refusal skills when offered a cigarette?
  • Do students need to know the names of the germs in order to effectively wash their hands?
  • Do students need to memorize the 206 bones of the body in order to fit a helmet properly, wear elbow/knee pads and wear a seatbelt consistently and correctly 100% of the time while riding in a vehicle?

Having the skill to memorize and recite Martin Luther King's exact words doesn't mean you understand the Civil Rights Movement. The answer is NO! to all of these questions above. If our goal is health literacy, every lesson, activity, demonstration, video, assessment should lead to healthy behavior outcomes (HBOs). And, if it doesn't- let it go! (You can find a list of HBOs in the HECAT, in the boxes on the front page of each module.

So, as we started to focus on skills in the classroom, we have also started to question what content is important? Benes and Alperin define functional information as information that is useable, applicable, and relevant. It is not arbitrary, traditional, or extensive. Functional information is the context in which the skills will be taught and the base for students’ developing functional knowledge. (Benes & Alperin, 2016)

I know, many of you are saying, I do skills-based. But, then I hear... it's important for a middle school student to know the body systems. To an extent, yes. But students aren't all going into pre-med in high school. In order to keep your heart healthy, you don't need to be able to diagram it, but rather, what behaviors help keep it healthy? And, how do you set some goals around those behaviors? What do students really need to know and demonstrate in order to lead to a healthy behavior outcome? Not much, actually. They need to practice skills, and be able to master those skills. 

RMC Health's Health Skills Models define what mastery looks like for each of the skill standards by grade level band. For example, for Advocacy, high school students should: 
• Students are able to identify a health-enhancing behavior using peer and societal norms.
• Students are able to demonstrate how they can influence and support others into making positive health choices.
• Students are able to work cooperatively with a group, analyze and solve various barriers they may encounter
• Students are able to adapt the health message to a specific audience.
• Students are able to reflect on the process and make adjustments as needed.

State Departments of Education are shifting to creating State Content Standards that are more focused on the skills and what mastery looks like for the skills and less on content, leaving that to local decision making. And, I agree with that. I think districts should spend the time reviewing any local data they can get their hands on and using student behavior data to drive/inform their local scope and sequences. Write down the concerning data points and determine which HECAT HBOs will address the concerning points. Which skill and knowledge expectations from the HECAT modules will address those student risk behaviors? Limit the number of units you teach. In fact, I suggest calling units the skills, not the content areas. 

I believe instead of teaching mental/emotional health promotion in September, you teach accessing information with 2-3 content areas as context to the skill. And, you move on to another skill... maybe goal setting and you teach 2-3 content areas for context. The district scope and sequence process is guided by those initial concerning data points.

If we go this way, truly, it means we need to re-brand our discipline. Our education leaders still think of drug ed and sex ed. Many do not understand that the skills in health education are life skills (analyzing influences, accessing information, interpersonal communication, goal setting, decision making, self management and advocacy). At multiple events, I have heard from businesses and employers that they expect the people they hire to have communication skills, decision making skills, negotiation skills... that is HEALTH EDUCATION! But, nobody recognizes it, because we still have health educators that aren't here yet. They aren't teaching skills-based, so our field continues to be stereotyped that it's the same it was 30 years ago. 

I want to re-brand our field. This is the first of many health education posts in this series. Upcoming topics include:

  • What does a skills-based unit really look like?
  • How do we re-brand our field?
  • How does the ACES research support health education?
  • How our legislators creating bills to teach content isn't helping the field.
  • How to begin shifting our schools to CSHEIs-  Comprehensive School Health Education Initiatives
     

Supporting K-12 Schools to #TeachThem in a Time of #MeToo

By Liz Thorne

The #MeToo movement has shown the extent to which acts of rape, sexual violence and sexual misconduct permeate the lives of countless women, as well the people and institutions that allow it to perpetuate like an “open secret”. Last month, the news of allegations of sexual misconduct against Asis Ansari added a new dimension to the #MeToo discourse. There was a debate about whether the actions of Asis belonged in the same conversation as the actions of Harvey Weinstein or Larry Nassar. But folks working in the field of sexuality education knew that it did.

While I was consuming all of this in my news feed, I just kept thinking to myself, “This is why we need more comprehensive sexuality education in every school in every town starting from preschool through higher education!” According to the Guttmacher Institute, fewer than half the states require schools to include the topic of “avoiding coercion” as part of a sexuality education program and similarly, a majority don’t require discussion of healthy relationships. But teaching young people about healthy relationships is the primary prevention for sexual violence because it’s centered on breaking down gender stereotypes, setting healthy boundaries, communication, and that consent is more than just “not hearing no”.

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There are states and school districts that are using this as an opportunity to strengthen laws and policies around sexuality education. The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) has developed a toolkit to support educators to advocate for policies that support comprehensive sexuality education. They also created the partner #TeachThem movement to build on the awareness that #MeToo has brought to the need for stronger comprehensive sexuality education. But even states with strong policies struggle with implementation due to a lack of funding for professional development for teachers and administrators.

This is why I’m so proud to be supporting a school district with funding from Advocates for Youth to develop a sexuality education plan of instruction K-12 inclusive of policy, scope and sequence and training/professional development. Earlier this month we held a meeting with folks representing: education, public health and child welfare at the state level; school administrators; district staff; county public health; community based organizations that provide culturally specific sexuality education; university; LGTBQ rights; and sexual assault/violence prevention.  The group came together to critique the first draft of a district sexuality education policy. We envisioned a policy that codifies instruction that is not just developmentally appropriate and science-based, but inclusive and trauma-informed. A policy where school level data are used to guide instruction, and teachers are enthusiastic and equipped to teach sexuality education through strong professional development and support from an incredible network of community partners. There is so much more work to do, but I left this meeting filled with energy and hope.   

I salute these and other professionals, sexuality educators, young people, teachers, administrators and advocates across the country working to strengthen sexuality education. Our work has never been more important or needed.

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Urban School Wellness Coalition

This week, Jamie Sparks and I co-facilitated two sessions of the Urban School Wellness Coalition convened by Action for Healthy Kids. This Coalition, comprised of thirty large urban districts came together in Denver to network, share stories, gain knowledge around Wellness Policies, the WellSATEvery Students Succeed Act (ESSA), Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) and observe WSCC in action at a local school!

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Jamie and I spent about 90 minutes Tuesday afternoon on ESSA. We introduced the federal legislation, including key Titles for those unfamiliar with it, shared Cairn Guidance's State ESSA Analysis, and allowed district participants time to review their states' analysis to determine opportunities and challenges within their districts as they move ahead. Yesterday, we spent the morning on WSCC- introducing the framework, sharing effective practices around the school health approach, systems thinking; systems changing, creating buy-in and addressing resistance and brought participants through a variety of engaging activities in order for districts to essentially begin to see how ESSA and WSCC, advocacy, support, implementation are feasible and achievable at home!

We created and share our ESSA/WSCC Symbaloo page- a page that showcases the most current, helpful resources in the school health field. Feel free to share with your colleagues.

We were honored to have the chance to network, socialize, share, train education leaders around the country this week- what a fabulous group truly dedicated to shifting the norms of how we define school success in the United States. 

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Since 2013, the Urban School Wellness Coalition brings together urban district health and wellness leaders to facilitate discussion around mutually important issues, provide opportunities to share information, network with peers, coordinate joint efforts, and inform urban educational leaders on the importance of student health as a driver of academic success.
— Action for Healthy Kids

Health and Physical Education Teacher, Angela Stark shares her experience Attending SHAPE America

Written by Cairn Guidance in partnership with the Dove Self Esteem Project

Angela Stark was thrilled to hear that she was one of two national educators to win the Dove Self Esteem Project (DSEP) incentive opportunity. Angela, a health and physical education teacher in Lexington, Kentucky, won an all-expense paid trip to the SHAPE National Convention in Boston in March of 2017.

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Angela talked with us about her school demographics. The School for the Creative and Performing Arts (SCAPA) has a lot of students who dance. Dancers can feel pressure to look a certain way, so she believed that the Dove Self-Esteem Project might be able to help her dancers and all of her students with their self-image. DSEP tools and resources can provide students an opportunity to not only focus on their physical appearance, but to see the value in their talents, skills, and attributes. The curriculum, with two options – a single-lesson or five-lesson program, helps students hone their skills in analyzing influences to reflect on the impact of unattainable appearance ideals seen in media.

Angela piloted the program in a co-ed classroom with her 6th graders. All youth appreciated hearing from different perspectives and viewpoints on how they feel impacted by appearance ideals.

Angela delivered the lessons in both fall and spring to cover all of her students. She started with the single-lesson in fall and continued using the five-lesson program as a booster and an opportunity for students to practice skills-based instruction around communication, assessing information and analyzing influences.

We asked her what her experience winning an all-expense paid trip to SHAPE America was like and she said, “Awesome! It was great to promote things that I believe in and trust as I do with the DSEP. In addition, growing as an educator to benefit students is essential to being a great educator, so attending the SHAPE convention allowed me to do that.”

Angela shared with us that the connections she made and the information learned from this experience have been priceless! But more importantly, she is thankful for the Dove Self-Esteem Project, which impacted her students in such a positive way.

Thank you Angela for sharing your insights on the Dove Self-Esteem Project!

To find out how you can attend the 2018 SHAPE America Convention, or the national or state conference of your choice, please email Samantha@cairnguidance.com for more information.

Supports to Teaching Skills-Based Health Education

By Brian Griffith, Health Educator and guest blogger for Cairn Guidance

Skills based health education has been around for years but has really gained support and steam over the last few years. Many state, district, and national conventions are hosting presentations that focus on integrating skills based health. Classrooms are shifting from “let’s do a fun project” to “let’s do a fun project that allows students to practice a skill aligned to content that will promote health literacy.” Simple projects, lessons that are embedded in PE or other content areas, or lessons that are done sporadically throughout the year do a good job with presenting what students should know, the what of the lesson. In order to develop health literacy, we also need to share the why and how. Why do they need to know this information and skill and how does it connect to wellness? What are you going to do with the information and how does it support a lifetime of health literacy?

Many teachers were trained on basic health topics and how to teach those independent topics. We know students learn best when they are shown the bigger picture of health (holistic approach) and how all aspects of health are connected. Shifting the classroom focus to skills based health isn’t difficult, the students will still be learning familiar topics. The difference is now the lesson will focus on a skill while teaching the content. Students will be learning about decision making while learning nutrition content, accessing information and mental health, analyzing influences and drug prevention, or one of the other skills with a content that has been identified by your state or local school system.

There are many resources available to teachers to support them shifting to a skills based health classroom.
I suggest reading these two books:
Skills Based Health Education” by Mary Connolly and

The Essentials of Teaching Health Education” by Sarah Benes and Holly Alperin

Jeff Bartlett, a great health educator in MA compiles a weekly Health Education blog here.

And, SHAPE America has been adding resources to the health education teacher’s toolbox.

RMC Health, located in Colorado, is another great resource that supports quality health education. From their website, “RMC Health has promoted the health and success of children and youth across the United States, and helped to transform the organizations that support them.” RMC Health has created skills based health models that provide guidance and skill cues by grade band/span. These health skills models have resources on how to teach the skills effectively to students.

Remember to always teach your local and state requirements. You don’t want to teach something that could get you fired or removal of your teaching certificate. Many requirements can be adjusted to address skills. If you know your curriculum, use CDC's Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT) to evaluate your information to see if you are covering items that CDC believes is critical to health education. The HECAT shares outcomes that students should reach based on grade bands/spans. The outcomes are divided into the National Health Education Standards. A teacher can identify a topic they want to teach (tobacco prevention), identify the grade band (6-8), identify the skill (accessing information), and then identify an outcome that matches their local curriculum (access valid and reliable tobacco-related prevention and cessation information from home, school, or community.) I might replace tobacco with nicotine because of vaping and e-cigarette use. I would use:  “Access valid and reliable nicotine-related prevention and cessation information from home, school, or community.”

For example, when a health literate person accesses valid and reliable information, we want them to identify sources of health information, explain how to find the source, and explain why it’s a good source. For example, RMC Health has identified six steps to access reliable information:

Step 1: Identify the Question
Step 2: Locate Accessible Resources
Step 3: Analyze for Validity
Step 3: Analyze for Reliability
Step 5: Determine the best Answer
Step 6: Reflect on your Answer

How do you “Analyze for Validity” or “Analyze for Reliability”? RMC Health has a resource students and teachers can use to evaluate websites here. Librarians at CSU Chico created a tool called the CRAAP for evaluating resources. CRAAP stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.

Health on the Net has been evaluating health information on websites for twenty years. They have a search tool individuals can use to locate valid and reliable information. The site is designed to support patients/individuals, medical professionals, or web publishers. Anyone can access the resources on their site. The site also shares the tool they use to evaluate information and students can use the tool to evaluate a website.

Health on the Net also create a quick guide on eight questions a person should think about when accessing a website.

The lesson will ask students to look for nicotine prevention and cessation services and evaluate those resources with one of the tools the teacher selects. What will the student with that information? The students could simply create a list of quality resources. Is that very engaging for your students? Does creating a list engage higher order thinking skills? If your school is tech focused, you could use google maps to pin key locations in the community. Students could also identify the barriers to health on that same map. Our main goal is to have them analyze these sites and identify ones that would provide valid and reliable information. Both of these activities meet that original objective. Should we provide a more engaging environment though? Students could work on advocacy by developing resources to be distributed at the local health department, hospital, clinic, PTA meeting, or health fair. This lesson could connect to environmental literacy by researching high pollution points of cigarette butts or vaping devices and organizing a student service project to clean up the area. Once the locations are identified, receptacles could be placed with signs about quitting smoking.  

Skills based health education means students are practicing skills and learning how to apply those skills in multiple settings. Teachers need to introduce the skill, allow students to practice the skill with multiple content areas, and then allow the students to be given a scenario where they have to identify the skills to use and successfully apply those skills. Then with any skill, those skills must be practiced over time. We all know having healthy citizens makes our communities and businesses more productive and better places to live.

What are some of your skills based health lessons?

I hope you make today a healthy day for you and all those you meet!