Student learning about their bodies earlier |

Student learning about their bodies earlier

Cindy Ramunno

GYPSUM ” Most of us remember receiving ‘the talk’ in school ” you know, the one where they put the boys in one room and the girls in another so a teacher can explain private parts of the body.

That same discussion is taking place earlier for students in the Eagle County School District. Fifth graders at all of the district’s elementary schools learn about it during the second semester.

Dr. Drew Werner and Dr. Crystal Roney of the Eagle Valley Medical Center presented the facts to the fifth grade classes at Gypsum Elementary.

“We talk about what it means to grow up, the changes happening in their bodies, how to stay healthy and make healthy choices, and how to take care of their bodies,” says Werner.

Even though the discussion includes menstruation cycles, where babies grow, and what sperm is, they don’t discuss how it all comes together, Werner says.

“We focus on accepting the changes in their bodies and recognizing that everyone changes at different rates,” he says. “We also talk about responsibility. Since they are getting older, they have the responsibilities of adult-like decisions ” for example wearing a helmet and choosing not to smoke, drink alcohol or do drugs.”

Gypsum Elementary fifth grade teacher Rich Deane said he was impressed.

“The doctors talked about correct vocabulary for the changes that they are or will be experiencing with their bodies,” Deane says. “They also encouraged exercise, good nutrition and plenty of sleep, especially during growth spurts. Students were able to ask questions too.”

Along with the fourth and fifth grade standards in the district’s health curriculum, there is also a portion for fifth graders only. A full list of what fifth are supposed to learn can be found at

Among other lessons, fifth graders learn about the human reproductive systems, including the menstrual cycle and how secondary sexual characteristics develop. They also are taught to identify male and female genitalia.

Fifth graders also are taught the danger of substance abuse, including long-term health problems caused by tobacco and alcohol, and the criminal ramifications of using illegal drugs.

In examining how the media, society, and peers influence their perception of their bodies, the students learn about images of the body used in advertising.

“Our goal is to provide accurate information and an opportunity for fifth graders to ask questions ” and we are also hoping to help create dialogue about the topic between students and their parents,” says Carolyn Neff, the district’s director of elementary education.

Among the homework is sheet that lists questions parents can ask their children. After the discussion, the parents sign off on the sheet and the students bring those back in to their classroom teachers.

Discussion questions for parents to ask their fifth grader include:

– What did you learn today in class about puberty?

– Do you have any questions you would like to ask me instead of asking your teacher or counselor?

– How do you think growing and maturing will change your behavior around the house and at school?

– How do you think your relationship with your parents will change?

– How do you think your relationship with your peers will change?

– As you grow and develop, what can we do as a family to keep talking about these changes openly and honestly?

For more information on the Eagle County School District’s health curriculum, call 328-6321.

Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism