Written by Sarah Benes, Program Director for Physical and Health Education Programs at Boston University on behalf of SHAPE America
When you think of school, does your child’s health come to mind? It should, as schools play a very important role in helping students develop healthy habits and behaviors through health education programs. Health education helps students develop skills such as goal-setting and decision-making, learn about topics that can affect their health, and develop health literacy —the ability to access and understand information about one’s health to know how to take care of oneself. We also know that healthy students are more ready and able to learn. Health education not only helps students be healthier, but also supports their academic success. Sounds good, right?
What does health education look like? Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America) recently published Appropriate Practices in School-Based Health Education, a document which outlines standards of practice for health education in schools. This comprehensive document addresses central components of health education including learning environment, curriculum, instructional strategies, assessment, advocacy, and professionalism. Teachers can use this document to reflect on and improve their practice. Administrators can use it to evaluate and support health education programs in their schools. Parents can use it to learn more about and advocate for school-based health education.
- Takes place in a positive learning environment in which all students feel socially, emotionally, and physically safe
- Emphasizes skills such as decision-making, influence analysis, information accessing, goal-setting, advocacy, self-managing, and interpersonal communication that is relevant, up-to-date, and accurate
- Includes information about a variety of health topics (including physical, social, emotional, and mental health)
- Engages students through instructional strategies that meet their needs
- Measures students’ success through real-life assessments that help students see how new skills and information can be used in their lives
What Can You Do?
Ask your child about their health education classes. Are they learning skills like those listed above (e.g., goal-setting, decision-making, advocacy, etc.)? What topics are included? If your child doesn’t have health education, check with school administrators to see if health education is offered in other grades. If there is no health education, use the SHAPE America document to advocate for health education in your child’s school! You can make a difference — whether it is checking in with what your child is learning, finding out more about his or her experience in health education, starting discussions about health and wellness in your home, or advocating for a health education program in your community. Every little bit can help support the health and wellness of our students! For more information, visit SHAPE America.
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