This week, parents of 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students had an opportunity to meet with human development and youth advocacy expert Charis Denison, who specializes in curricula that teach kids to make healthy choices. Charis works with schools near (Urban, SF Day, Stuart Hall, Hamlin) and far (Punahou in Hawaii, Deerfield in Massachusetts).
Her visit provides us with a good moment to explain our approach to what used to be called “sex ed.” Today, schools like ours base this part of the curriculum on research that shows, convincingly, that “the biological, cultural, and ethical components of ‘sex ed’ must be part of a holistic effort to help each child develop an integrated, confident sense of self” (Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common project).
In other words, ensuring that your future teenager makes healthy choices, navigates through toxic external pressures, and enters young adulthood as a powerful, confident self-advocate begins when they are toddlers. Conversations around consent, fantasy vs. reality, and critical thinking can begin with our youngest kids, and these same concepts can be later applied to the specifics of sexuality. One example from Charis’s visit: Thomas the Train often tells his viewers, “if you’re having fun playing a game but your friends are not, you have to stop. And if they are having fun and you are not, you should stop.” This provides a teachable moment for toddlers as we discuss with them how important it is to consider other people’s feelings, while also paying attention to our own; a concept later called “consent.”
Charis expressed her admiration for the work we are already doing. “PKS has a curriculum that teaches kids to understand their own emotions, and explicitly teaches them how to look for and take cues from others. Your teachers are trained to prioritize emotional intelligence. This is a necessary foundation for the future hard work of having resilient teens.”
This spring, Charis will be working with our faculty to make sure our curriculum continues to give our students the developmentally appropriate information they need to be empowered as they navigate childhood and early adolescence. She is working particularly closely with our 4th and 5th grade teams on units that focus specifically on sex and sexuality education.
Our school considers the health and empowerment of your children to be our paramount responsibility. Charis is an excellent resource for our community; parents of 4th and 5th graders will receive a deep dive into the specifics of the curriculum on March 1, and parents of younger children will have future opportunities to meet with her in person.
All community members can look forward to a future PKS学习 | PKS Learns on Peggy Orenstein’s book, Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape.
If you have questions about how our human development curriculum supports your children’s health and empowerment, please reach out to the Carin Chou, Jess Durrett, Renee Miller, or Mike Levy.