Thursday, December 30, 2010

Great Resource: The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States

As my career as a teacher develops, I find myself looking for more ways in which I can be an advocate for my profession. Staying up to date on policy initiatives can be tough to do due to reading through political news and jargon. For issues relating to sexuality education, The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States is a fantastic resource to do just that!

SIECUS was founded in 1964 and provides fact based information relating to sexuality and sexuality education, and is recognized as a leader in those fields. Information from SIECUS is geared towards educators and other professionals, the general public, and parents. Information comes in the form of fact sheets, policy updates, special reports, community action updates, research updates, profiles based on specific states, etc. Additionally, SIECUS has other websites under its umbrella containing lesson plans, community action tips, and more. NOTE: Information about these sites should be appearing in posts throughout the first part of 2011!

All information provided by SIECUS is detailed and comprehensive. I checked out the link for the state profile of Massachusetts, and was almost overwhelmed with data and information! State laws relating to sexuality education in public schools (opt out laws), results from recent Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, other sexual health statistics, programs in public schools (with information on submitting information from your district), and Federal funding. It would be interesting to compare your state to other states, noting similarities and differences. College students could look for patterns based on the political landscape, too.

Of particular importance to health educators and others wishing to impose policy change is the contact information on organizations that both support and oppose comprehensive sexuality education. This is helpful to identify allies and opponents, and makes it easier to further research specific stances, policies, and initiatives that organizations have been known to support or oppose. A list of major newspapers in Massachusetts is provided, but local papers are not included.

SIECUS provides a Community Action Kit for those willing to undertake the role of advocating for sexuality education. A more detailed post on the Community Action Kit will be written; I may blog about my experiences using it as a step by step process during 2011, but considering everything else I have on my plate, no promises!

All in all, SIECUS is a must read website and an organization that can help put accurate information into the hands of those who need it most. More health educators and public advocates need to take it upon themselves to publicly address issues relating to sexuality education! I hope to do the same this year. I only wish that the website would provide contact information for advocates who have undergone he task of creating change in their communities. Collaboration and the sharing of ideas among advocates can only help those new to policy change, but I can see that the SIECUS website might not be an appropriate forum for this sort of information.

As always, please e-mail me with any questions, comments, or concerns.

Note: All information relating to SIECUS was obtained from its website, linked above.

Back At It!

It's been over a month since my last post, which is my fault entirely. Since my last post, I've had five posts in draft mode. With grades closing for middle school and graduate class ending, a new indoor track season starting and the bustle of the holidays, I've fallen behind!

I'm getting back on the blogging train and hope to post once a week (definitely twice a month) for 2011. I think I'll be focusing on sexuality education for the calendar year 2011, or at least the first part. It's a topic that needs to be discussed and there are so many incredible resources out there to share with other health educators. I may also target another "focus area" or two to hone in on in my blog. I might tend to be a little more opinionated in my posts this year!

I still plan on blogging about teaching ideas, lessons, and classroom items, too! Check back for more as 2011 arrives!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Analyzing Alcohol Advertisements: Resources for Educators

NOTE: I am in no way affiliated with Frank W. Baker or The Media Literacy Clearinghouse. I write this on my own free will with the purpose of passing on an incredible resources to other teachers!

Frank W. Baker is a media literacy expert who runs the Media Literacy Clearinghouse.  The clearinghouse contains information regarding media literacy and its application to a variety of topics, including health topics such as alcohol, body image, food, sex, and tobacco. Each section contains downloadable articles, lesson plans, sample advertisements, and links for more information that every health educator should check out! I frequently use his links to alcohol advertisements for a carousel activity (I should post about that soon...) with my seventh graders. Mr. Baker has all angles covered, and his website is very comprehensive with that information is provides.

Baker also covers additional topics, such as bias, media art, and propaganda, to name a few. This makes it easy for teachers of separate subjects to plan cross-curricular activities relating to their course content with colleagues. His website is a valuable resource for any health educator who wants to tie media literacy into their various units.  Occasionally, some of the links will be broken or outdated; a Google search usually fixes this. It would be relatively easy for teachers to design webquests featuring The Media Literacy Clearinghouse, which could easily work out to the higher level, critical thinking skills that are vital for students to learn. So, please check out The Media Literacy Clearinghouse!

As always, please feel free to e-mail me with any questions, comments, or concerns.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


It's been quite some time since I've updated, especially after my frequent posting during the month of October. A lot of exciting things are happening with work and other areas of my life, and I plan on sharing a lot of that here on the blog. This post is only to let the seventy or so readers who find themselves here throughout the week that there will be more posts soon!

Check back later in the week; I have two posts in in draft mode and some more working out in my head, too.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sixth Grade Menu Project

EDIT: This is an assignment from one point in time and I have since changed the requirements for this assignment twice since I posted! I'm always trying to make work more challenging or thought provoking. Please keep that in mind as you read this post!

I apologize for not posting in a few weeks! I was busier than anticipated, and we're in the middle of some project work at middle school. Recently my hits have increased a lot; I'm averaging about ten unique visits a day now from Google searches! Please keep checking back! 

When I originally started this blog during my first year of teaching, I posted about a menu project assignment that my sixth graders had completed as an assessment for part of their nutrition unit. I deleted that post when I returned to the blog, so I am posting about the updated lesson here.

I love this project, especially the creative aspect of it, but I think in the future I will be moving a little away from this as the only summative assessment for the nutrition unit. Ultimately, I also want to make sure the students are able to show me they have the skills needed to make healthy food choices, and there are so many ways to do this that I could do almost anything. Also, I mention that we use a nutrition unit out of the Michigan Model, which is true; however, we do take some lessons and teach them in eighth grade.

Below you will find a Jing video with a brief explanation of the menu project. Other assessments I include during the nutrition unit include a three-day food log and a "Shop 'til You Drop" activity I found online (a post on that should happen soon!). I didn't want to take too much time explaining the project in this video (my Jing account only allows for five minutes to be recorded) but I think I get the point across. In the past, I have taken "oils" out of the picture but decided to include it again this year. Many menus have unique themes to them and my students usually create them around a theme that interests them.

If you see anyway I could improve upon this, please let me know! Check out the Jing video below for a brief overview of our menu project.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Our Favorite Drugs" Infographic

GOOD Magazine publishes a Transparency every week on their website, which is full of infographics relating to many diverse topics. Since browsing through their website for the first time, I've added a few feeds to my Google Reader account! GOOD also keeps an archive of their transparencies on flickr.

The infographic "Our Favorite Drugs" puts drug use into a visual form, using information from local law enforcement officials who were asked by the Department of Justice which drugs posed the greatest danger to their local communities.

This visual is an easy addition to any drug unit. The sky is the limit to the types of questioning or reasoning the students could use; the teacher could even use this as a type of unit activator by asking students to predict drug use in different parts of the country before showing students the infographic. Students can look at the infographic, attempting to infer why certain drugs are more problematic in some parts of the country as opposed to others; to examine regional, local, and other (cultural, geographic, etc) differences; to predict future trends of drug use.  Note that alcohol is not included in this infographic. The visuals might be a little confusing at first, but it becomes clear once you see how it's set up.

I can't embed the copyrighted image, and if you missed the link above, you can check out "Our Favorite Drugs" in GOOD Magazine's flickr account by clicking here. I've also recently discovered some infographics online from TIME as well; check back in the near future for a post on those infographics.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth

The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (abbreviated CAMY) is a must-know resource for any health educator. Part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, CAMY "monitors the marketing practices of the alcohol industry to focus attention and action on industry practices that jeopardize the health and safety of America's youth." The CAMY website is an incredible resource for any teacher, whether their goal is to find information for lesson planning, reading advocacy reports, staying on top of political updates and news reports, or the reading latest research on alcohol advertising.

CAMY contains an expansive section of print alcohol advertisements grouped by brand name or product, and a separate section of television commercials that are similarly grouped. CAMY provides these advertisements with the hope that they will "stimulate discussion, comment, criticism, and public concern about alcohol marketing and youth." I've used alcohol advertisements provided by CAMY in my seventh grade health classes when we deconstruct tobacco and alcohol advertisements. In the past, I have selected a handful of advertisements and used them in a carousel activity. Advertisements are hung around the room, and groups of students go to each one and try to deconstruct the advertisements before we discuss them. This is typically after we have examined advertising techniques, and we expand upon this by critiquing advertisements and analyzing how they effect health behavior. This is an important skill for students to learn because it is one of the National Health Education Standards, and the performance indicators under those standards, which are part of any exemplary health education program.

We haven't entered that part of our curriculum yet this year, but when we do I'll write a detailed post about the actual lesson itself.

Some of the information on the CAMY website might be a little too in-depth for middle school students, but the reports and research provided by CAMY are great opportunities to extend a lesson for students able to continue further than their classmates, or to use in high school as an expansion to what was learned in middle school. Some of the summary brochures and fact sheets are dated, so care should be taken when certain statistics are used in the classroom. The organization has received some criticism from a group that has also criticized Mothers Against Drunk Driving, The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, and The American Medical Association. I'll let the reader make up their own mind about those criticisms. With any topic, it's important to examine information critically, from multiple viewpoints, especially as a teacher. I feel that I don't need a website trying to discredit organizations (especially ones listed above) to make my own judgements based on the information I have available.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

One School; Four Deaths

One school, four bullying related deaths in recent years. Over 10,000 comments on this one news story.

Think bullying isn't an issue to be concerned about? Think kids just need to "grow up" and deal with things on their own? Think people have been overreacting in the last few weeks with the media blitz on bullying?

Think again. I don't even know where to begin...

Friday, October 8, 2010

CNN Bullying Resources

Bullying has taken over many news reports over the last few weeks, and conversations about bullying are happening all across the country. Almost every single news feed I subscribe to via RSS had at least one article relating to bullying in the last two weeks. Many news sources have devoted entire sections to the issue, or are choosing to run a special series of articles, videos, and other resources devoted to the topic in order to cover the recent tragedies involving bullying that have occurred in the United States.

Leading the charge in my RSS feeds have been CNN and the blog of Anderson Cooper 360, the website companion of the nightly news show Anderson Cooper 360, or AC360.

Each website contains video, articles, opinion pieces, and resources relating to general bullying as well as to specific bullying cases. I was originally going to embed each video in this post, but there are simply too many! Please check out these resources! Each part of the website will in turn link you to other parts. This would be a great idea for a webquest in class or a homework assignment where students have to dig through all the current information on bullying.

In the past, I have used clips from AC360 in my health classes. Last year I used a segment about the suicide of Carl Walker-Hoover. I believe I used one on smoking advertisements as well, but that may have been from another news source.

Check out CNN's special section Stop Bullying: Speak Up! as well as posts on the AC 360 Blog relating to bullying.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

No One Should Feel Alone, Part V: The Trevor Project

NOTE: All information used for this post was obtained from The Trevor Project's website.

The Trevor Project is a non-profit organization which was established with the goal to, "promote acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, and to aid in suicide prevention among that group." The Trevor Project provides a 24 hour, free, nationwide, confidential suicide prevention hotline for young people to call where they can talk with non-judgmental, trained counselors. Call 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).

The Trevor Project also provides TrevorChat, an online messaging service that is free, confidential, and secure. TrevorChat is meant for people who are not at risk for suicide, and is only available on Fridays from 4PM Eastern time through 12:00AM Eastern time. Dear Trevor is an online question and answer resource for young people who wish to ask questions relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. A nifty search tool allows user to search through questions and answered that were posted in the past.

Another service provided by The Trevor Project is TrevorSpace. TrevorSpace is a social networking website that is meant for LGBTQ youth, their families and friends, and their allies. According to their website, TrevorSpace can be used to make friends, connect with young people throughout the country, to find support, to get involved in the LGBTQ community around you, and to stay on top of news relating to LGBTQ youth. Unlike other social networking website, TrevorSpace is monitored by site administrators to ensure that user content is appropriate. This provides a safe and appropriate haven for youth on the internet, which is becoming increasing rare these days.

The Trevor Project really covers all angles and conveniently offers varied ways for teenagers to get help. With social media and social networking a large part of any young person's life, it makes sense to have different avenues people can approach in order to get the help they need.

Additionally, The Trevor Project provides an incredible amount of resources for educators and parents. Their entire website is loaded with useful information, and to be honest I haven't gone through it all just yet. Please check it out and forward the information along to those who may need it. I'm very impressed with the organization and everything that it offers. 

Support The Trevor Project by joining their Facebook page, subscribing to their Twitter account, or by checking out their YouTube channel. Also, don't hesitate to call 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

No One Should Feel Alone, Part IV: To Write Love on Her Arms

To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit organization which is dedicated to "presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide." TWLOHA serves as a bridge for people seeking help, and connects people to various treatment centers, support groups, books, websites, and other such resources relating to a variety of problems.

TWLOHA has a large presence within the music community, and is supported by artists such as Switchfoot, Paramore, Boys Like Girls, and The Rocket Summer. Bands such as these tour in support of TWLOHA and wear TWLOHA merchandise in order to raise awareness and promote discussion about suicide, depression, and other issues that affect young people all across the country. Additionally, they charge people to become "agents of change" in promoting awareness of such issues and adding to the important conversations that need to take place regarding teenagers getting the help they may need. TWLOHA has a substantial website, and is actively involved in social networking to promote their mission and vision. They also appear on musical tours (such as the Warped Tour), college campus visits, and fundraising events. The TWLOHA online store offers a variety of merchandise for sale that also promotes their organization and provides fundraising.

I will say that as a middle school teacher and a high school coach, I do see kids wearing t-shirts or similar merchandise promoting TWLOHA. I think the support various bands provide for the organization have helped increase its visibility among the teenage demographic. This is only a good thing, and hopefully teenagers will continue to spread the word about getting help and letting people know that no one is ever alone. Whenever I see a student wearing something from TWLOHA I try to engage them in conversation about how they found about TWLOHA.

For more information on TWLOHA, check out their Facebook page, MySpace page, YouTube channel, or Twitter account.

TWLOHA was featured this past weekend on CBS Sunday Morning. Check out the video below; TWLOHA is mentioned in the last three minutes:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

No One Should Feel Alone, Part III: PFLAG

I was first informed about PFLAG (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in my senior year of college when my advisor gave us a bunch of information about the organization. Realizing the need to be aware of a variety of resource groups for teenagers, she thought it would be beneficial for future educators to be aware of PFLAG and what it offers.

PFLAG is, according to their website, "A national non-profit organization with over 200,000 members and supporters and over 500 affiliates in the United States." PFLAG is a grassroots network that receives support via a national office in Washington, D.C. as well as numerous regional boards.

PFLAG sets out to, "Promote the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, their family and friends through: support, to cope with an adverse society; education, to enlighten an ill-informed public; and advocacy, to end discrimination and to secure equal civil rights."

A chapter of PFLAG exists in every single state in the United States, totaling 350 chapters all across the country. Finding one is as easy as accessing their website and entering search criteria. Ten such chapters exist in Massachusetts. Additionally, the PFLAG website contains a list of specific issues relating to the LGBT population, and what advocacy efforts individuals can take on to raise awareness of such issues. Information about education programs is also provided on the organization's website. PFLAG has separate sections on their websites for family members and friends of LGBT loved ones, for gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals, and a transgender network as well.

PFLAG is a perfect example of the saying, "You Are Not Alone." Their local chapters provide opportunity for individuals seeking support for themselves or someone they care about. This, combined with PFLAG's online resources and commitment to advocacy, make PFLAG a "must-know" as a teacher working with youth at any level.

Monday, October 4, 2010

No One Should Feel Alone: Ellen's Reaction

Last week, Ellen DeGeneres spoke out about the recent bullying related suicides of gay teenagers. While not a resource (those posts are coming up later), Ellen's message is brief and heartfelt. It can definitely be shown in the classroom to stimulate discussion about all that has gone on in the past few weeks.

Please watch the video below:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

No One Should Feel Alone

I'm a twenty-four year old, straight, white, male teacher. I was raised in a middle class family who lived in a small, rural suburban town with one traffic light that was almost always green. I have a twin sister who I basically always got along with other than typical sibling things, and two loving parents who aren't divorced. Growing up, people joked about making my family's life into a sitcom. I could go on about my life during college and after college, but I want to stay focused on when I was younger.

I write this because I have no experience with my parents getting divorced, or drug addiction within my family, coming out of the closet, or suicidal thoughts. My life has been, for lack of better words, utterly plain and free of emotionally trying events (well, except for one thing I won't mention). Things have always seemed to work out for me in basically every area of my life, and if they haven't worked out the way they were "expected" to work out, they ended up working out better for me in the long run.

So, how the heck can I help a student who is going through something completely different than what I went through growing up? The student who takes care of their younger siblings because mom or dad is working all the time, or because their parents are suffering from addiction...the closeted gay teenager who is trying to find a balance between fitting into the socially accepted mold of heterosexuality while staying true to themselves...the young girl trying to measure up to the expectations of her parents that she act just like her sister...a student who has lost a parent or sibling...

This is a question I often wrestle with. But ultimately, when students approach me to talk, they don't care about my past or what I have or have not been through. They simply want someone to listen with a set of ears and with an open heart. Providing those two things is the first step. I am by no means an expert or a counselor, and refer students appropriately as needed to other resources. While I've never had to deal with anything that is threatening, I think every issue a teenager wants to talk about is of the utmost importance and should be treated as such.

Recently the media has focused on the suicides of gay teenagers over the last week or so. The suicide of Tyler Clementi has brought at least four other suicides, all of gay young people in the last three weeks, to the attention of the major news media. A few years ago, there was a media blitz about shark attacks, even when statistically, the number of attacks was about the same (or less, if I recall) as usually reported. Columbine, 9/11, the Gloucester "Pregnancy Pact"...major events that brought something specific into our consciousness. In this situation, the event happens to be bullying of gay teenagers. I don't know the statistics, but if this event hadn't captured the event of the national media, there will still be teenagers struggling with thoughts of suicide every single day across the country.

It shouldn't take events like this to make us, as a nation, to address issues that affect thousands of people every single day. As a health teacher, I am all about prevention and not reaction. Bullying is already a hot topic in Massachusetts, and after the events of the last few weeks I'm sure there will be a focus on helping teenagers in need. Hopefully, this is not short lived. While I am happy that issues are being addressed, I'm still perplexed that it takes something major to happen for a dialogue to begin.

This week, I'm going to focus on identifying resources teenagers can use to get help with any sort of problem they might be dealing with. As educators, it is our responsibility to take care of our students. Many students come to us because they don't feel comfortable going to anyone else.

The posts that you will see published this week have been written on Sunday, and will be published automatically as the week progresses. Please forward any information as you see appropriate, and pass it along to your students. I may only get approximately fifty views a week, but if anyone of those fifty people can spread along information that can help someone else then I will have considered these posts successful.

Carry on, friends. No one needs to feel alone.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

John Halligan Presentation

Today John Halligan gave three presentations to all of our students. My class schedule originally didn't allow me to go at all, but my principal was able to get me coverage for one of the presentations. Seeing as I teach about bullying, this was a no-brainer!

Mr. Halligan's presentation was unlike anything I have ever seen before. There were no gimmicks, no cheesy pep-talks. Halligan's weapon is his own personal experience and his pain, displayed through nothing other than raw emotion, over the suicide of his thirteen year old son due to bullying. This occurred back when cyberbullying was just really starting to be talked about, and when bullying laws weren't in consideration in a lot of states.

Halligan's message was unique because he was honest, choosing to tell things as they were and without any sugarcoating. Audience members could see pain on his face and hear hope in his voice. Admitting to wanting to kill the kid who was the main cyber-bullying culprit against his son, Halligan then recalls how living with that hate was no way for him to live his life. In meeting with the girl who was also a main bullying culprit, Halligan offers his own story of the difficulties of forgiveness and the hope that someday, bullying will end. That girl, Ashley, even appeared on national television with Halligan to talk about the incident and how it has affected her.

Halligan's efforts helped create the Vermont Bullying Prevention Bill, and he was successful in leading passage of another law requiring mandatory suicide prevention education in Vermont public schools. His presentation also focuses on the effects bullying had not only on Ryan, but on the rest of his family as well. Throughout the presentation tears were shed by both students and faculty, and the post-activity discussion in individual classrooms was hopefully another chance for students to decompress after the emotional presentation. With the new focus in Massachusetts on bullying due to the new bullying law, it's hoped that students will take this message and really work to change the culture of bullying that plagues adolescence.

You may view some video clips on Halligan's website from shows such as Oprah, Primetime with Diane Sawyer, and PBS Frontline. I will say that the clips do not tell the whole story, and do not do John Halligan justice. The power of his presentation cannot be captured in video clips.

During his presentation, Halligan offered to students that all it takes is one person to tell someone to stop bullying for a difference to be made. One person to take a stand and help someone in need; one person to become an ally; one bystander who chooses to take a risk in helping someone else. The middle school students who left the presentation today should all challenge themselves to be that one person. And if that can happen, then we're getting somewhere.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Back in The Swing of Things...

The school year is finally in full swing and I'm beginning to adapt to our new schedule with relative ease. I'm very excited for this school year and the changes I'm hoping to bring to how I've taught in the past. My graduate course at Boston University has also started and it might be the single most beneficial course I could take up to this point in my young career. We're going to be focusing a lot on skills based health education, and it appears that we'll be looking at things from the administrative perspective a lot; this is something I'm really looking forward to. Because I am already licensed and teaching (as is one other person in the class) my coursework will be slightly different, but not by much. It's going to be exciting to look at what we can do to improve health education and make sure that we are all advocates for our profession.

I have many posts in draft mode with what I'm doing in my classroom for the first weeks of school. Once assignments get turned in and as we go through units, there will be more posts geared towards activities and ideas other health teachers can use in their classroom. There will probably be a lot of commentary by me throughout the first semester as I dig into skills based health education as well. Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Website to Use: KidsHealth

Looking for a way to break down content information in a way that's easy for your students to understand? Need a quick brush up on any health topic? Look no further than

KidsHealth encompasses three websites: one for parents, one for teenagers, and one for kids. All three sites contain information on a variety of health topics. As the site information says, KidsHealth is free of "doctor speak." Information is reviewed by medical experts and has received numerous awards for its content.

I've used KidsHealth many times in my middle school classes. Earlier this year, I posted about using their virtual reproductive systems during a unit on puberty. Their information on drugs and alcohol is also used in my classroom. For back to school night, I mention this website to parents as a resource for them to use if they want more information on what we're learning in the classroom to discuss with their kids.

NOTE: I am in no way affiliated with Kids Health or its parent company!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Back to School!

Today is the first day of middle school for the 2010-2011 school year! A new schedule, some slight modifications to our curriculum, and a new batch of sixth graders will all be entering HRMS this year. I'm excited to try out some new ideas in my classroom and will continue to share my journey with all of you.

Today, I'm rockin' the French cuffs and cuff links, and I'll probably be standing on a few desks throughout the day. All in a day's work, I say!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

BU Professor and Dean Discuss School Lunch

While checking Facebook tonight I came upon a link provided by the Boston University School of Education, where I am a part-time graduate student. The link contained a video of Joan Salge Blake, a registered dietitian and professor at BU, and Hardin Coleman, the Dean of the School of Education, engaging in a dialogue about healthy school lunches.

The commentary covers a lot of angles relating to the loaded topic of school lunches. We need colleges and universities to help tackle this issue, because their graduates can hit this from so many directions: from within schools as educators, in the government as policy makers, in labs conducting research, or through helping people in any field such as personal training, etc. Many points mentioned are right on, especially the factors of not eating breakfast (and its effects on how students behave and learn...I'm amazed at how many kids complain about being hungry during the day) and the rushing of the school lunch block. I was impressed with Dean Coleman's knowledge of the shift in physical education curricula, too!

Check it out below!

Watch this video on YouTube

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

One Week Left...

One week from today, middle school officially starts up again. Today and tomorrow I'm participating in professional development with some colleagues, and every teacher reports for duty on Tuesday. I've started to set up my classroom again and I'm eager for the year to start!

As the beginning of a new year approaches, I wanted to post a scene from one of my favorite movies. I'm sure some of you will recognize it. A "School Year in Review" post will come before the end of the summer.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

HIV/AIDS: Using "Dispatch: Zimbabwe" in HIV/AIDS Unit

One of my favorite units to teach is the HIV/AIDS and other STDs unit that is in our eighth grade health curriculum. I often supplement material contained in our curriculum with material from outside sources, because I find it a fascinating topic with so many things to bring to the classroom and add to the experiences of my students. I could spend the whole trimester on this one topic! The transmission simulation activity is perhaps the favorite in the eyes of my students, but I enjoy trying to get my students to see the big (global) picture with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Last year I used two video resources during this unit, one from PBS Frontline which I use to show short clips about the beginning of HIV/AIDS.

The second resource comes from one of my favorite bands, Dispatch. Although the three members no longer play together, the band's impact is still felt throughout the way in which they reach out, globally, to help those less fortunate than them. Dispatch is huge on advocacy work, and the members frequently travel to other countries in order to help others.

In 2007, Dispatch reunited for a three performance stint at Madison Square Garden, and sold out each night. The benefit concerts, entitled "Dispatch: Zimbabwe" were designed to raise money to fight famine, disease, and charities in Zimbabwe. During the concert (and on the DVD of the concert) Dispatch created small vignettes about a variety of topics. One is entitled, "Health."

The "Health" vignette focuses on HIV/AIDS and its impact on a man named Eria. The five minute clip provides a nice introduction to the global issues of HIV/AIDS, although it does focus on how it is affecting Zimbabwe. I use it as an introduction to a class discussion on the global impact of the disease, in which I use some maps from organizations that are trying to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.

I've embedded the video below.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Staying Updated, Part Two

As I mentioned earlier this week, I'm a firm believer in staying up-to-date on topics that I teach about in my classroom. I owe it to my students to provide them with information that is recent, accurate, and reliable. I frequently find myself taking a short minute or two out of class to discuss something in the news. Examples over my first two years teaching include the bullying legislation in Massachusetts, voting on the decriminalization of possession of marijuana, sexual harassment cases at a local school, and articles relating to nutrition.

I find out about these stories through many ways: watching the news (although not as much during the school year), by seeing headlines on websites (while checking e-mail or visiting other websites, etc), from my mother (who e-mails me news articles at least once a week...although, I've usually seen them by the time she gets to them!) and through my Google Reader account.

So, what sources do I skim and read for information? Check out the lists below of some sources I use for education and health news, both locally and across the country. This is not an all inclusive list, as I have eleven feeds total relating to education and a few other sections unrelated to work with about 30 different feeds of blogs, news websites, etc. I'm also pretty sure that people won't care that I follow a Bruins blog or two as well as a few running/exercise science blogs.

My (Personal) Top Resources for Education:
1. The U.S. Department of Education. I use this website to stay on top of various topics relating to education policy and research. There's not too much information I share with my students here, but as a teacher I think it's important to try to stay on top of what's going on nationally as far as education is concerned.

2. Billed as "your daily cheat sheet for education news," focuses on stories that will probably make you simultaneously angry and amused. Sample stories, which are posted from other news outlets, involve students bringing guns to school and a teacher ordering their class to plan a terrorist attack. The authors note, "We mock the public school system because we love the idea of quality, free, public education." This is, according to the authors, done because they want to promote a solution. Regardless of their motives, it's an entertaining read.

3. Education news. Teaching about thirty minutes north of Boston means I need to stay up on education issues going on within the local area as well as statewide. Information here is from the Boston Globe, and covers a myriad of topics: MCAS scores, athletics, budgets, community news, etc. National news is featured here as well.

4. Class Struggle: by Jay Mathews. To me, the best part of Jay Mathews' education blog is the commentary provided by readers. Mathews often weighs in on these comments, engaging in conversation with his readers and even admitting his mistake. Mathews writes about a variety of issues, focusing on education policy and education reform.

5. Free Technology for Teachers. Richard Byrne does a fantastic job posting free resources for teachers to use in implementing technology in their classroom. I've posted about his blog every now and then, and have successfully used many resources he posts in my classroom or for personal use. This should be required reading for all teachers!

My (Personal) Top Choices for Health News

1. Fed Up With School Lunch: The School Lunch Project. Mrs. Q, the anonymous author of this fantastic blog (which I've linked here many times) has set out to eat school lunch during every school day during this calendar year. Her blog has been mentioned on the national news and has been instrumental in creating a dialogue about changing the food our children eat in schools. Now that school is starting up again, be prepared to see pictures of the foods our children consume at school. You might be surprised! Mrs. Q has linked up with many other passionate individuals to help bring attention to this important issue. After all, our children all our future; we should feed them well!

2. Well: New York Times Blog. Well contains commentary on stories that are published in the New York Times relating to exercise, nutrition, fitness, science, etc. Frequently, these stories also come up in my RSS feed for the Health section of the Times, but I subscribe to the blog for the commentary provide by the author and the readers who post comments.

3. Health Section. I subscribe to this for the same reason I do's education section: it's the best source for local news relating to health, with stories from the Boston Globe. It also covers national headlines as well, and the local aspect makes it easy to make connections with students about what's going on a few miles down the road for them.

4. CNN Health. CNN covers a substantial amount of information and often includes interactive images and videos within their news stories. If the story is making news nationally, CNN will cover it and often will have follow-ups or commentary from multiple sources. If I can, I try to use video from Anderson Cooper 360 because he always seems to have both sides represented, with the occasional fireworks from commentators!

For both education and health news, I do see a lot of headlines that pop up in more than one feed. If the story is not an AP story, it's interesting to see the opinions of each writer and the similarities or differences in their reporting. More often than not, AP stories dominate so I'll just read whatever feed I see first. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

MyPyramid Blast Off! Review Game

MyPyramid is the current food pyramid that is used in our sixth grade nutrition unit. I do try to incorporate other food pyramids if we have time (the Healthy Eating Pyramid and the Mediterranean Food Pyramid are two) for comparison purposes, but time is usually not a luxury afforded to a sixth grade classroom!

The USDA created MyPyramid in 2005 as an update to the old food guide pyramid that I learned about in middle school. When it was created there was a fair amount of criticism which led to the creation of other food pyramids. My sixth graders come into class with basic knowledge of MyPyramid from their fifth grade health class in elementary school. So, I go into more detail about how they can individualize their eating habits using MyPyramid, among other topics relating to nutrition. I usually begin with a review so I can make adjustments in case some students have more knowledge than others.

The MyPyramid Blast Off! game is a great review for students relating to the food groups, serving sizes, and incorporating moderation and variety into their diet. Students must fuel their rocket ship with food from all food groups and physical activity to reach Planet Power. I make this activity interactive by allowing students to come up and use the Smart Board to help play the game. When I use it this year I'm going to try to have some sort of companion activity so students don't become bored or overly excited. You do need Flash 7 or greater to play the game. Click here to launch the game and try it out!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Staying Updated: Google Reader & Google Fast Flip

NOTE: I am not affiliated with Google or the blog Free Technology for Teachers in any way, shape, or form. I simply use a lot of Google Products and read Free Technology for Teachers for great information.

I strive to remain up-to-date on health topics that are making headlines in the news. I often incorporate current events into my health classes whenever I can, in order to bring a little "real world" information into my classroom. I use Google Reader as an RSS aggregator to keep myself informed of information that is being published from a variety of resources: newspapers, blogs, government websites, etc. I have multiple sections, including one for "education" and another for "health" related information. I browse through the feeds as soon as I get into my classroom each morning to see if there is anything I can use during the day.

For those who don't know (Hi, Mom!) an RSS aggregator is basically one-stop shopping for customizable news information. News from a variety of sources (websites, blogs, etc) is easily categorized based on how I want to view it. I have thirteen different feeds for education and health, which is definitely enough information for what I am trying to do. The one downfall of not including more feeds is that there is in increased possibility that I will miss a story I might be able to use in class. However, adding additional feeds from all over the country becomes quite cumbersome and there would simply be too many stories for me to sort through. I don't read each and every one now; I scan and read if I am interested. My point is that there becomes a point where there would be an information overload and where time starts being wasted.

Enter Google Fast Flip. I found out about Google Fast Flip (and a lot of other things!) by reading the excellent blog Free Technology for Teachers by Richard Byrne. Google Fast Flip provides news articles in a visual display that the user can scroll through for a quick scan of what's popular in the news. You can select different categories, such as Sports or Health. Fast Flip shows news stories from all over the country, covering local and national news, which allows me to have a greater depth of information without cluttering my RSS feeds. Fast Flip gives me the opportunity to read news from sources I would otherwise not read.

I selected the "Health" section and was immediately able to skim articles from major news outlets and websites. If an article interested me, I clicked on it to read it in depth. In a time where everyone seems to need more than twenty four hours in a day, Google Fast Flip is a great way for me to supplement the information I obtain through RSS. I can easily access this website in class and show my students how health is always in the news, and maybe select and article or two to talk about. I can have students use Fast Flip for their "Health in The News" assignments, and the variety of sources can expose them to different writing styles and opinions. Students could also compare and contrast assignments from different newspapers. Try it out for a quick visualization of what's popular in the news!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Infographics: Nutrition Related (From A Great Blog!)

Using infographics is a great way to present information or data in a unique, visual way. Instead of presenting information using many numbers or a block of text, an infograph can convey information in way that can be quickly understood and absorbed. They are also great in order to emphasize certain points from a lesson or to allow content to "hit home" when students see it visually. They're also great for visual learners.

While scrolling through my Google Reader account, I came upon an entry from one of my favorite blogs, Free Technology for Teachers. If you've read my posts before, I've linked this blog on a few occasions. You MUST visit this website!

Richard Byrne, who created the blog, posted a few links with infographics relating to obesity and eating out. I checked a few of them out and I'll definitely be using them during our nutrition units this school year. These graphics will allow me to expand upon content we're covering and I'll be tying in some critical thinking skills with them, too. There is no point in re-posting the links he created, so below is a link to his blog. Plus, I want you to check out his website! I have another post about something I'm using after I read about it on his blog, too.

Free Technology for Teachers: Infographics on Eating out and Obesity.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hartford Courant: YRBS Results Article

An article appeared in the Hartford Courant on Tuesday detailing the results of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey that was administered to 3,000 middle and high school students throughout Connecticut in 2009. The article focuses on the results pertaining to sexual intercourse, specifically that 70% of high school seniors surveyed responded "yes" when asked if they had engaged in sexual intercourse in the last 12 months. The figure being most talked about, however, is that out of all students surveyed who are sexually active, only 60% used condoms in their most recent sexual intercourse experience.

Obviously this article (specifically, the statistic) is helpful for me in my quest to get comprehensive sexuality education into all of our schools. The reporter discusses this with various officials who work within the health and education fields, and realizes that this is a multi-faceted problem that requires an approach from a variety of angles. Sexuality education isn't just about sperm meeting egg, or penis and vagina. It covers the diverse angles within the topics: sex itself, relationships, sexual identity, STIs, methods of protection, media influence, etc. Hopefully articles like this will help start the dialogue about sexuality education that needs to take place within communities.

I'll be going back to my classroom late next week to start preparing things for the start of classes on September 8th. With the start of the school year, my intention is to post less about health issues in the news and more on what I'm doing in the classroom. I'd love to add more pictures and maybe even some video, too. With the school year approaching, I'm starting to brush up on my content knowledge as well. I have an outstanding resource I'll post about before school starts, and there are a few websites I've discovered that I hope to post about soon.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Association Between Health-Risk Behaviors and Academic Grades

I was checking my e-mail this afternoon and opened the latest message from NASPE. After scrolling through some P.E. news, the big link that caught my eye was entitled, "New Health and Academic Achievement Resources from DASH." I'm always interested in reading about how health education, physical education, etc. can help improve academic learning.

The information provided by the CDC is based on the just released 2009 results of the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey. If you're unaware, the goal of the YRBS is to monitor priority risk-behaviors among adolescents across the country. The amount of information this provides health educators is incredible; in addition to a national breakdown, data can be broken down on the state and local level. This data has been used in my district to adapt our health curriculum to fit the needs of our students. One could argue that changes might be too late to have an impact by the time we see trends, and identifying future trends is something I would like to try to improve on by talking with the students, etc. But, when it comes down to it we are using the data in a way that can help create positive changes among the youth we serve.

I haven't yet looked at all the data (this frequently happens when I blog about something I just read about), but the Overview provided enough information for me to post here. When it comes down to it, after controlling for sex, race/ethnicity, and grade level, data showed "a negative association between health-risk behaviors and academic achievement among high school students."

Students with higher grades are less likely to engage in risk behaviors! Are there outliers? Of course there are. This data can't be applied in every situation. I'm sure that we can all think of someone we went to high school with that partied hard or engaged in some of the other risk behaviors and somehow managed to get decent grades, or vice versa. But, how much did they learn? That in itself, the reflection of grades on student learning, is another can of worms to open up. I'm getting off track here, but as you can see I try to see the whole picture behind the numbers. Learning disabilities, AP classes, and a host of other items are not taken into account.

I would be further interested to see how these numbers correlate to results of standardized test scores. We already know that physical activity can help increase scores on standardized tests (among other things, like improving classroom behavior) but do engagement in risk behaviors affect them too? It's easy to generalize, or make assumptions, about the potential result of this. I would love to look at some data from which I could draw conclusions. However, some people don't perform well on standardized test scores and some people ace them while maintaining below average grades. Too many controls for a study, I think!

The CDC themselves has said that these numbers require further research to determine what exactly leads to low grades, or to engaging in risk-behaviors, or what else could lead to either of the above. My excitement with this is that now we have the possibility for future research into this area. And, in an economic climate where health and physical education are placed on the chopping block quickly and often without justification, these numbers give those of us in the field concrete evidence of the importance of what we teach children. It also helps support the argument for incorporating a well developed, interactive, coordinated school health program in as many school districts as possible.

I'm going to use some of this new data during my brief presentation during back to school night. Actually, as part of our department's professional development before school begins, we are spending a day with our community prevention coalition discussing the new data from our own, district-wide version of the YRBS. So, I'll be able to apply even more specific data during back to school night.

I'll also use it when I finally get my chance to present in front of the School Committee, Governor, President (whoever!) when I argue my case for increasing the amount of sexuality education we teach in our middle school. But that, my friends, is another topic for another time!

Check out the actual reports and information here.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

College Drinking: More Than Just a Problem (Infographic)

DegreeScout is a website geared towards students who are applying to colleges, with a goal of helping students make informed decisions about various challenges students may encounter during the search for the right school, especially when it comes to online learning.

I found this infographic while checking up on what is quickly becoming my favorite blog, Free Technology for Teachers. I've mentioned this before, but if you are a teacher you need to follow this blog! The amount of information can be a tad overwhelming, but it's easy to sift through what you know you can use in your classroom and what you can't based on your technology set up.

But, back to the topic: drinking in college. As a middle school health educator, I'm able to give students the facts/knowledge about the dangerous affects of alcohol abuse long before they enroll in college. Ideally, I also provide them with skills they choose to use to promote a healthy lifestyle as well.

When I was in undergrad, I was a resident assistant for a year and a half in a co-ed, all-freshman residence hall (we weren't allowed to call them "dorms"). Part of my job responsibility was to enforce college policies (especially alcohol policies) but another large component was to run "educationals" for my floor each month. We were never allowed to run one on safe alcohol consumption, because then we would technically be promoting an illegal activity. We could bring in campus police, or the awesome people from the Drug & Alcohol Education Center (I think that's what it was called) but these presentations were simply on the dangers of alcohol. All important information, for sure, but not always what college students wanted to hear.

I do not want to condone underage alcohol use or irresponsible alcohol use, but many kids have no idea what they're doing when it comes to consuming alcohol. The conversation about safe, responsible drinking needs to take place with every college student, and I would venture to say younger as well. Look, kids will drink. I wasn't into that scene in high school or college but plenty of friends of mine were. There's really no right answer to this issue, but I don't even see the conversation taking place in many schools, at any level.

The infographic was displayed with the following paragraph: .

"The team at was pretty shocked when these statistics surfaced about life at traditional colleges and universities. Even with the funny stick men, it is still unnerving. At first glance, it seems strange to draw the conclusion that attending a traditional college can dramatically up one’s chances of being assaulted, committing suicide, driving drunk or having a penchant for graffiti. It made us wonder: Do career colleges and online programs shield students from these unfortunate scenarios? Or is the spike in crime and drinking simply a product of youth, in which case, traditional colleges just house a large population of young (and arguably irresponsible) students? What do you think? Can these situations be avoided by enrolling in online education courses?"

Certainly food for thought, but I do think they are drawing hasty conclusions and that attending an online school is definitely not an answer to this problem. I wouldn't trade my college experience for anything in the world: I was a three season athlete, involved in many student activities and clubs on campus, presented with professors at conferences, and learned an incredible amount in and out of the classroom. I think ScoutDegree, while providing important and somewhat startling information, is making a blanket statement about traditional colleges. However, they are stimulating conversation in some way, so I can't complain about that.

The infograph is embedded below. I'm going to tie this into my classes and will also use it through a new initiative my district is undertaking with all the athletic teams at the high school. More posts on that as the fall season begins.

EDIT: I have tried to embed the infograph, but the link provided by the website doesn't seem to work. Check it out here.

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