Sandwich School Board Approves STEM Health Curriculum

When the 7th and 8th grade STEM Academy opens this fall, there will be a new health education curriculum to go with it.

At a recent Sandwich School Committee meeting, the board voted to approve the curriculum originally presented to them by STEM director Gilbert D. Newton, health and wellness department chairman William O. Luette, and nurse leader Carilyn A. Rains back in May.

The program’s nine modules will cover topics that include everything from nutrition to emotional health to substance abuse prevention. It will also include a segment on human reproduction.
It was this segment that drew the committee’s concern back in May.

“There are other things that I think parents will want to take care of at home,” committee member Marie A. Kangas said.

Ms. Rains noted that all of the modules will present the information to the students in a way that is factual and age appropriate, as well as evidence-based so students are getting information that is backed by research.

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“When they talk about sensitive subjects, there’s so much more that’s meshed in,” she said. For example, the cycle of life module also discusses peer pressure, risk taking, and developing a realistic body image.

Even so, Ms. Rains said parents will have the option to take their children out of any of the modules.

Mr. Newton said Sandwich students will have online access to all of the tests and projects in the program and that parents will have access through their children. “I will also make available a printed teacher’s guide in my office for any parent who wishes to look at it,” Mr. Newton said.

The students will also be sent home with a family bulletin printout before the start of each module. “The parental involvement aspect is very important and parents tend to be much more comfortable when they are informed,”

Ms. Rains said. “This program provides a great gateway for parents to start dialogue at home.”

Ms. Rains said that it is vital to middle school-age students to receive a formal health education. “Middle school is a tough time for kids and a pivotal age to introduce health,” she said. “It’s important to be giving kids correct information early enough so that they’re able to make well-informed decisions.”

One of her biggest concerns in being proactive in health education is to prevent youngsters getting incorrect information about these topics from television and friends. In order to ensure that students are always getting the correct information, the education material is updated every year to reflect the latest research and evidence.

Many of the issues covered in the health curriculum tie well into topics that students will be covering in their STEM science classes, such as learning about body systems and environmental health.

Mr. Newton said the program will be a half-year program consisting of 80-minute classes every other day.

Mr. Newton said this will be the first time in a long time that the Sandwich district will present a formal health education curriculum to its students. “I can’t remember the last time we had a health program in the middle school,” he said. “It’s been several years.”

After the committee members had a few weeks to review the binders that were provided to them, they agreed that the program was a good one, and voted its approval.

The curriculum is very tastefully done,” committee member Andrea M. Killion said. “It’s very appropriate.”

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