Life Skills and Human Sexuality

Life skills is the Middle School’s affective education program. Classes meet on a weekly basis and focus on the themes of emotional intelligence (self awareness, self regulation, empathy, and social skills), health and human development, leadership, and community. These broad-based subject areas build upon the most current developmental and social and emotional needs of Middle School students.

Seventh Grade

SEVENTH GRADE LIFE SKILLS—CULTIVATING SELF-IDENTITY: VALUES, FEELINGS, AND BELIEFS REVEALED

This is a semester-long class that meets on a biweekly basis. It serves as a separate, semester-rotating companion to the Human Sexuality course (see below). This course explores a wide range of identity-rich topics and life situations that provoke self-examination in the Middle School student. It is intended to encourage thoughtfulness about potential areas of challenge, healthy decision-making, and to strengthen protective factors.

The course format uses a two-part class. The first part is a presentation to the entire class by a speaker, or a multimedia presentation by faculty, which requires student note-taking and written reflections. In part two, the following week, the class is divided into small groups. With the students, we address the content raised in their reflections and related lesson plan material with activities and student discussion. Topics covered in the course can include: understanding Park philosophy, diversity issues and major social identifiers such as disability, racism, sexual orientation, and gender identity. It addresses risk taking, harassment and bullying, cliques, peer pressure, and cultural literacy. The class discussions are facilitated by Middle School teachers for the initial month and then are team-taught by trained peer educators from the Upper School Mentor program. Each year, the course is evaluated by both students and mentors to keep it relevant and meaningful in areas where adolescent challenges in identity can arise.

SEVENTH GRADE LIFE SKILLS—HUMAN SEXUALITY

This seventh grade semester-long course is designed to broaden student understanding of sexuality as a complex, ever-evolving, and integral component of the total personality. It provides an introduction to factual content and to the processes involved in clarifying one’s values, making personal decisions, and expressing oneself. Topics discussed include sexual and reproductive anatomy and physiology, pregnancy and birth, contraception, STDs, HIV, and the physical, social, emotional, and behavioral changes associated with puberty and early adolescence. Throughout the term, students exchange ideas and attitudes about such diverse issues as relationships, gender roles, gender identity, sexual orientation, current events, sexual and reproductive rights, and sexual behavior standards. Although this course is focused largely on sexuality, the elements of responsible decision-making are explored in relation to other important concerns, such as alcohol and other drugs, and relationships with peers and adults.

Eighth Grade

EIGHTH GRADE LIFE SKILLS—ADVOCACY

Each student rotates through five seminars over the course of the year. In Understanding Adolescent Relationships, students examine a variety of interpersonal situations as they relate to issues of adolescent conflicts, understanding context of behavior, methods of communication, how to help a peer, and coping skills. Sexual Health, a continuation of the seventh grade program in human sexuality, provides opportunities to explore relevant factual information as well as personal values and decision-making around a variety of sexual topics. We also study current events in the sexuality and sexual health fields, and explore helpful websites that provide accurate, useful information. A major theme of the course is understanding intimacy and boundaries and their relationship to sexuality. In Here and Now, students learn and practice the basics of mindful based stress reduction. This includes an overview of the limbic system and how it regulates our response to environmental stimuli. We then define the concepts of worry, stress, and anxiety and begin to examine our own lives in relation to each. In each class, students practice mindfulness and stress reduction techniques (such as breathing, muscle relaxation, journaling, and guided imagery) and identify ways they can incorporate mindfulness into their own lives. During No Internet? No Problem!, students will learn basic skills that the internet has helped make obsolete, but are still important things to know. Lessons may include writing formal letters, basic banking, planning trips (including map reading and budgeting), and how to small talk with new people. In the Memory and Mindset course, students learn about memory and the brain, and practice techniques for improving memory and learning.