I joined the Teach for America movement in Connecticut because I wanted to be a leader in the fight to change the status quo - ending the idea that where a person is born determines the quality of their education, health care, and life. In the few short months that I have been a teacher in the New Haven School District, I have seen how high the stakes are for "our" kids in this state, which holds the largest achievement gap in the nation. In order to create transformational change in the classroom, I believe teachers need to impact all areas of their students' lives, from academics and self-awareness, to health and nutrition. Creating a curriculum unit focusing on puberty, a period of major physical and psychological changes will allow for a combination of all of these skills. Academically, my students will gain a deeper understanding of how specialized organ systems interact with each other to maintain dynamic internal balance, a content standard for 7
grade. They will also gain awareness about their stage of life. Also, students will see how closely related health and nutrition are to the science behind how and why their bodies work the way they do. This unit fits in perfectly with the age of my students; as adolescents, my middle school students are experiencing the ups and downs of puberty each and every day.
The New Haven 7
Grade General Science Curriculum focuses heavily on life systems, including lessons on the reproductive, skeletal, cardiovascular, muscular, and digestive systems. However, the curriculum seeks to give student's breadth, rather than depth. The "Help! My Body is Changing!" curriculum unit will allow students to pull together the skills and knowledge they have gained over the course of the year. It will also serve as a way to look holistically at the body as a unit that works together in order to function, and this will be accomplished through the lens of puberty. This lens is perfect for curious middle school students, who want to know more about their stage of life. Anatomy, health, and disease are topics that are already of interest to my students and I hope to invest them in this new topic by harnessing the questions they already have in their own bodies. The heart of this unit lies in teaching students about healthy habits, disease, and the body. The "Help! My Body is Changing" curriculum unit will tie in all three of these areas and do just what the students are asking - help them understand about their bodies, answer the tough questions they are embarrassed to talk about with peers, and give them the tools they need to create and maintain healthy habits.
The unit will tie together a variety of body systems by looking at the changes the body goes through during puberty using three essential questions: 1) "Why are middle school girls usually taller than middle school boys?" 2) "When will I finally be able to buy a pair of sneakers that will fit me forever?" 3) "Why do some girls get their first period earlier than others?" or "Why do some boys get their first erection earlier than others?"
Students will be able to answer the three above questions by the end of the unit, which will focus on that fact that puberty is triggered by the release of hormones, which are chemical messengers that tell the body to start or stop growing. This generally occurs in girls between age 8 and 13 and in boys between ages 9 and 14. Some of the most noticeable changes include growth spurts and changes in the brain. During puberty students experience changes in their brains that give them more control over their impulses, better judgment, and reasoning skills. Boys experience these growth spurts later than girls, but they grow for a longer period of time. After growth spurts are over, students will reach their full adult height. Many students have the misconception that bones are hard and so they don't change in size. But they will quickly learn that ossification actually allows the bones to get longer and this makes them taller. Bones grow until ossification is complete, and it is at this point that things like shoe size remain the same. Students will also learn that everyone grows at different rates; the genetic make-up along with food intake determines growth rate and size. Muscular and skeletal systems stop growing during early adulthood and it's important to get proper exercise and eat well so the body can grow during it's peak growth stage, puberty. So to make a long story short… yes, your mom was correct when she told you, "if you don't eat your fruits and veggies, you won't grow up big and strong." Puberty is also marked by changes emotionally and adolescences often want to fit in with their peers. My students encounter peer pressure on a daily basis and it's important for them to understand the implications that unhealthy habits, like smoking and the desire to be too skinny, can have on their bodies.