Update 3: Diving into Curriculum Design

With just over a month left to go, I am diving head first into drafting a sexual health curriculum of my own. For this stage, I plan on returning to focus on the state of New York, as New York has a decent amount of requirements for sexual health classes when compared to other states. I do, however, want to challenge myself a bit extra and think about how the lessons could be adjusted to different circumstances or views. I think that it’s important to acknowledge that while one school may offer students condoms out of a fish bowl, another school a few counties over may avoid talking about contraception at all. Because of this, a major goal of my curriculum is to be more of a personal & relationship health curriculum rather than strictly sexual health education. Respect for self and others extends far beyond issues of sex and I believe needs more emphasis during adolescent years.

One of the greatest challenges that immediately plagues me is setting a realistic timeline for this proposed curriculum. Depending on the school, health classes may last all year or only half. They meet everyday or every other. Classes could be 50 minutes or 80. There also may be state requirements for a minimum amount of time met for health classes. Health classes are also not specific to sexual health. Rather sexual education typically is just a topic among the many others to be covered during the class’s duration.My biggest concern is that there will not be a realistic timeline to cover everything that I may want to. The CDC’s HECAT model which I am using as a guide has eight Health Behavior Outcomes (HBOs), eight learning standards, and an overwhelming ninety-four knowledge expectations that twelfth grade health students are expected to know/understand by the end of their education. Granted many of the knowledge expectations seem a bit redundant and there are many opportunities to take down multiple birds with one stone. Nevertheless, I plan on spending a good bit of time grouping objectives by common themes that can be linked together over the course of the entire curriculum.

While I have yet to embark on specifics, there are a few steps that will guide me in writing sample lessons:

(1) Identify approximately three learning objectives for the lesson. What would I want the students to know by the end of the class?

(2) Decide on how the lesson will be introduced. A poll? General question posing? A “two-minute essay” to get students reflecting on their experiences? Short video or movie clip? How can the lesson capture students’ attention right from the start?

(3) Plan the activities that will be used to achieve that lesson’s learning objectives. (PowerPoint, group discussion, video, small group activities, worksheets, etc.)

(4) Create opportunities within the lesson to check for understanding. This allows a stopping point to confirm students are following, clarify confusion, or propose new questions.

(5) Conclude the lesson with a recap of the lesson objectives/activities done. Give a short introduction into what the next lesson will consist of and how it relates to past lessons.

Overall, I am excited to see what the first few lessons I plan look like. I hope to explore more teaching resources and branch out into a variety of existing sexual health curricula to see what teaching methods are currently being used. I look forward to sharing some examples of my work in the coming weeks!


  1. eesmith01 says:

    Hi Micayla,

    I think this topic is not only extremely important, but it is also devastatingly overlooked. As I told you in previous comments, I believe our topics share similar goals. I would love to collaborate with you to create some sort of program that addresses both sexual education and body image, as well as other important issues (physical and mental health, nutrition, bullying, etc.). I’d be interested in gaining your perspective!

    I’m also wondering, what is your opinion on separating boys and girls during sex-ed? I attended a sexual education course outside of school in which the boys and girls were not separated. Although awkward at the beginning, I think it was beneficial to hear male perspectives and learn to discuss these topics openly. The process ultimately made us all really close and I look back on it as an extremely positive experience.

    Similarly, I’ve learned from talking with my participants about body image that most girls are more than willing to discuss these “touchy” topics and are curiously seeking more information. It seems that adults are the ones who are afraid to discuss these important issues. Do you have any ideas of how to overcome that obstacle? Children deserve to receive this education, as the ability to make informed choices is critical to their health, well-being, and future.

    Thank you for addressing such an important issue!

  2. mmmenchel says:

    Hi Erin,
    Thank you for the very thought provoking comment. I am also interested in your research topic and recently watched all the Dove beauty commercials posted in one of your recent blogs. I was far more emotional watching them than I thought I would be and definitely see some connections between our topics. The influence of media, technology, and culture, as well as family and peers in relation to sexual health and health in general is actually one of the major topics that I plan on incorporating into the curriculum I’m working on. I’d be curious to see if your findings with body image may align with what I’m hoping to cover.

    As far as separating boys and girls during sex-ed, I think separation of sexes should be strongly discouraged. I think there can be a lot to learn from the opposite sex on a wide variety of topics. I think girls should know how to put on a condom just as much as a boy should now. Boys should understand exactly what menstruation is and to stop the fear surrounding a completely natural process just as much as girls should stop being afraid of what their own body does. We live among one another, have relationships with one another. I have yet to find an argument that convinces me that when it comes to talking about our own bodies and sexuality, that we should not learn with one another.

    I have also seen a similar trend that many teens want to learn more about and discuss “touchy” subjects, but often the adults in their lives are uncomfortable talking about the same things with them. I think this may stem from parents or teachers) not wanting to think about their children or students as sexual beings entering a new stage of life, but I think that’s ignoring the reality of the situation. I think it takes a very open, honest, and trustful relationship between a teen and an adult for these discussions to happen organically and that often times that relationship just isn’t present in someone’s life. Because many teens lack someone they feel comfortable approaching on their own perhaps, this is why having a curriculum taught by a teacher that is willing to facilitate these conversations in so important. I often struggle with why this is often difficult to do when society itself is immersed in a market that heavily relies on the idea that “sex sells.” Sex is not a foreign topic to this country. It’s almost a constant presence in our music, television, movies, video games, and advertisements. The biggest hurdle is getting to the point where teachers, parents, and the community as a whole have to be accepting of reality and realize that more harm is caused by withholding information than having medically accurate, age-appropriate, unbiased discussion surrounding sexual health.

    Thank you again for the thoughtful comment! I really enjoyed thinking about the questions you posed.