Wellness as the Overarching Theme
Schools play a critical role in improving the healthy lifestyle behaviors of children and adolescents. Schools can create environments that are supportive of this by implementing policies and practice that provide students with learning opportunities to practice these behaviors, for example regular physical education and health education. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Students will gain personal and academic achievement through practice of skills needed to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Students will access, evaluate, and use information from various sources to achieve overall wellness, and will comprehend concepts related to wellness to implement realistic plans for a lifetime of optimal well- being. Students will make plans and take actions that lead to healthy and balanced living for themselves and the world around them in an environment that is safe physically, socially, emotionally, and intellectually. (Healthy and Balanced Living Curriculum Framework)
Today’s state-of-the-art health education curricula reflect the growing body of research that emphasizes teaching functional health information (essential knowledge), shaping personal values and beliefs that support healthy behaviors, and shaping group norms that value a healthy lifestyle.
To adopt, practice, and maintain health-enhancing behaviors, students will make individual progress toward mastery of the following goals of the WPS health curriculum:
1. They comprehend concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention to enhance health.
Students acquire basic health concepts and functional health knowledge as a foundation for promoting the health-enhancing behaviors necessary for youth. Essential concepts that are based on established health behavior theories focus on health promotion and risk reduction.
2. They analyze the influence of family, peers, culture, media, technology and other factors on health behaviors.
Since health is affected by a variety of positive and negative influences within society, students focus on how to identify and understand diverse internal and external factors that influence health practices and behaviors including personal values, beliefs and perceived norms.
3. They access valid information and products and services to enhance health.
Students practice the critical skills of prevention, early detection, and treatment of health problems by accessing valid health information and health-promoting products and services. Students investigate and reject unproven sources using the skills of analysis, comparison, and evaluation leading to achievement of health literacy.
4. They use interpersonal communication skills to enhance health and avoid or reduce health risks.
Students can effectively communicate to enhance personal, family and community health. By developing verbal and non-verbal skills, responsible individuals maintain healthy personal relationships. Students have the ability to organize and convey information about feelings as a basis for strengthening interpersonal interactions and reducing or avoiding conflict.
5. They use decision-making skills to enhance health.
Students develop the decision-making skills needed to identify, implement and sustain health-enhancing behaviors. Students can make healthy decisions using essential steps and collaborating with others to improve quality of life.
6. They use goal-setting skills to enhance health.
Students plan for their futures by setting both short-term and long-term health goals that help them to identify, adopt, and maintain healthy behaviors.
7. They demonstrate the ability to practice health-enhancing behaviors to avoid or reduce health risks.
Students practice research-based health enhancing behaviors that contribute to a positive quality of life. Students accept personal responsibility for health and practice healthy behaviors.
8. They demonstrate the ability to advocate for personal, family and community health.
Students develop important skills to target their health enhancing messages and to encourage others to adopt healthy behaviors.
Much has been learned in the past few decades about classroom instruction that effectively promotes the development of health and physical literacy skills. Based on this research, the Wilton Public Schools has established the following core principles for instruction in health education:
1. Focus on clear health goals and related behavioral outcomes.
Teachers of Health establish clear goals for learning, situate goals within learning progressions, and use goals to guide instructional decisions on a unit-by-unit and lesson-by-lesson basis. Establishment of clear goals not only guides teachers’ decision making during a lesson but also focuses student attention on monitoring their own progress toward the intended outcomes. Learning experiences should be directly related to the behavioral outcomes.
2. Instruction is research-based and theory-driven.
Instructional strategies and learning experiences are built on evidence-based approaches that have effectively influenced health-related behaviors among youth. Curriculum goes beyond the cognitive level and addresses health determinants, social factors, attitudes, values, norms, and skills that influence specific health-related behaviors.
3. Individual values, attitudes and beliefs are addressed.
Curriculum fosters attitudes, values, and beliefs that support positive health behaviors. It provides instructional strategies and learning experiences that motivate students to critically examine personal perspectives, thoughtfully consider new arguments that support health-promoting attitudes and values, and generate positive perceptions about protective behaviors and negative perceptions about risk behaviors.
4. Individual and group norms that support health-enhancing behaviors are addressed.
Instructional strategies and learning experiences help students accurately assess the level of risk-taking behavior among their peers (for example, how many of their peers use illegal drugs), correct misperceptions of peer and social norms, emphasizes the value of good health, and reinforces health-enhancing attitudes and beliefs.
5. The focus is on reinforcing protective factors and increasing perceptions of personal risk and the harmfulness of engaging in specific unhealthy practices.
Students have opportunities to validate positive health-promoting beliefs, intentions, and behaviors. There are opportunities for students to assess their vulnerability to health problems, actual risk of engaging in harmful health behaviors, and exposure to unhealthy situations.
6. Social pressures and influences are addressed.
Students analyze personal and social pressures to engage in risky behaviors, such as media influence, peer pressure, and social barriers.
7. Students develop personal competence, social competence, and self-efficacy by acquiring specific skills.
Students engage in discussions where they practice communication, refusal, assessing accuracy of information, decision-making, planning and goal-setting, self-control, and self management which enable them to build their personal confidence, deal with social pressures, and avoid or reduce risk behaviors. Developmental steps guide students in:
8. Functional health knowledge is provided that is basic, accurate, and directly contributes to health-promoting decisions and behaviors.
Accurate, reliable, and credible information is provided for usable purposes so students can assess risk, clarify attitudes and beliefs, correct misperceptions about social norms, identify ways to avoid or minimize risky situations, examine internal and external influences, make behaviorally relevant decisions, and build personal and social competence. It is important to recognize that information provided for the sole purpose of improving knowledge of factual information will not change behavior.
9. Instruction is designed to personalize information and engage students.
Instructional strategies and learning experiences are student-centered, interactive and experiential (for example, group discussions, cooperative learning, problem solving, role-playing and peer-led activities). Learning experiences correspond with students’ cognitive and emotional development, help them personalize information, and maintain their interest and motivation while accommodating diverse capabilities and learning styles. Instructional strategies and learning experiences include methods for:
10. Age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate information, learning strategies, teaching methods and materials are provided.
Students’ needs, interests, concerns, developmental and emotional maturity levels, experiences, and current knowledge and skill levels are addressed. Learning is relevant and applicable to students’ daily lives. Concepts and skills are covered in a logical sequence.
11. Learning strategies, teaching methods, and materials that are culturally inclusive are incorporated.
Materials are free of culturally biased information and include information, activities, and examples that are inclusive of diverse cultures and lifestyles (such as gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, physical/mental ability, appearance, and sexual orientation). Strategies promote values, attitudes, and behaviors that acknowledge the cultural diversity of students; optimize relevance to students from multiple cultures in the school community; strengthen students’ skills necessary to engage in intercultural interactions; and build on the cultural resources of families and communities.
12. Adequate time for instruction and learning is provided.
There is enough time to promote understanding of key health concepts and practice skills. Behavior change requires an intensive and sustained effort. A short-term or “one shot” curriculum, delivered for a few hours at one grade level, is generally insufficient to support the adoption and maintenance of healthy behaviors.
13. Opportunities to reinforce skills and positive health behaviors are provided.
Previously learned concepts and skills are built upon and opportunities are provided to reinforce health-promoting skills across health topics and grade levels. This can include incorporating more than one practice application of a skill, adding "skill booster” sessions at subsequent grade levels, or integrating skill application opportunities in other academic areas. Age-appropriate determinants of behavior across grade levels are addressed and reinforced, building on learning which is more likely to achieve longer-lasting results.
14. There are opportunities to make positive connections with influential others.
Students are linked to other influential persons who affirm and reinforce health–promoting norms, attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors. Instructional strategies build on protective factors that promote healthy behaviors and enable students to avoid or reduce health risk behaviors by engaging peers, parents, families, and other positive adult role models in student learning.
15. Professional learning that enhances the effectiveness of instruction and student learning is provided.
An effective curriculum is implemented by teachers who have a personal interest in promoting positive health behaviors, believe in what they are teaching, are knowledgeable about the curriculum content, and are comfortable and skilled in implementing expected instructional strategies. Ongoing professional development and training is critical for helping teachers implement a new curriculum or implement strategies that require new skills in teaching or assessment.
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