Before science provided the evidence needed to confirm its importance, health education was recognized as being a vital part of every K-12 curriculum. Educators have always understood, for example, that physically healthy and active students were better able to learn.
The key to any effective school health curriculum has to be a high degree of inclusiveness. In order to achieve this, experts from different areas are often consulted. Because health education cannot occur in a vacuum, however, other stakeholders (parents, politicians, community leaders, etc.) must also lend a helping hand if schools are to educate students successfully.
4 important components of an effective health education curriculum
Although it would be impossible to reduce any curriculum to any low number, it is possible to set priorities. One can also identify key areas from which other areas may be developed or elaborated upon. Here are four critical aspects of developing a useful health education curriculum.
Coordinate: A school health curriculum should be developed in close coordination with existing health education programs and initiatives. Some programs or areas of health concerns that must be addressed include:
- Mental health counseling services (both in school and at community mental health facilities)
- Child health immunization initiatives and requirements
- Services provided by school nurses
- Flu shot administration initiatives
- The objectives/goals of physical education classes
- Medications provided through schools programs
- Condom availability/dispensing programs
- Sex education courses
- Student medical privacy laws and requirements
- Anti-drug use initiatives
- Violence in schools education programs (to include gangs, bullying, random shootings, etc.)
Standardize: An appropriate school health curriculum should be derived from or have as foundational pillars a core set of uniformly-adopted principles. The DCPS Office of Youth Engagement, Health and Wellness Team, for example, posits that such curriculum should emphasize:
- The development of necessary health “skills” young people will need to employ health-benefiting behaviors.
- Helping groups to adopt a healthy-lifestyle appreciating paradigm.
- Assisting young people to develop beliefs, values and perceptions that make healthy behavior an attractive, useful personal goal.
- The instruction of useful, practical health information—in other words, information that students can associate with and ostensibly put to use in the foreseeable future.
Research: Consult with the brightest minds in different fields/industries along with those in the education. Use their ideas and recommendations in order to develop the best possible curriculum. Some of the ideas they consistently offer include:
- Implement specific health outcome goals and objectives.
- Use theory-based and research-founded principles and guidelines.
- Respect individual’s value systems and attitudes.
- Recognize and make use of different cultural practices and norms; cultural differences are an asset, not a liability.
- Develop specific risks factors to warn students about; let students know why certain behaviors pose certain risks and how those risks can be successfully managed.
- Manage pressures that come from peers, television, Hollywood, etc. Help students to recognize these pressures and to find ways to deal with them.
- Help students to develop skills—in other words, don’t just impart scientific information which they may not immediately see a need for.
Personalize: Find a way to let the school health curriculum become personalized and open for personal engagement. Rather than just instruct, for example, make opportunities for students to participate, share personal information, and engage with other students. Some such key goals include:
- A call for creative expression.
- Allowing students to share opinions, feelings, and thoughts.
- Being open for different views and arguments.
- Seeing the importance of critical thinking tools and skills.
- Touching upon important health concepts and principles.