Middle school students are at a critical stage of development in terms of receiving health education to learn how to maintain and improve their mental, physical, emotional and sexual health. In middle school health classes, students gain the knowledge and skills to make healthy choices throughout high school and beyond.
As their bodies develop and mature, students need health-education classes to learn about the changes affecting their bodies. Middle school students are at a critical developmental stage because they are old enough to understand health-education topics yet are less likely to have begun experimenting with drugs, alcohol or sexual activity than high school students. Healthy lifestyles and choices discussed in middle school health classes are important to children who are beginning to form habits and make decisions that will impact their lives for years to come.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 20% of high school freshman are sexually active, and more than half of all youth will become sexually active before graduating high school. Hormonal changes may lead middle school students to act impulsively regarding sexual health, unless health classes have taught them the skills necessary to make informed decisions. In health classes, students learn about their changing bodies and the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in a safe environment.
Middle school health classes help students establish a healthy lifestyle by teaching about nutrition and ways to combat obesity. According to “Why Middle School Health?” published on the Michigan.gov website, it is much easier to encourage young people to develop healthy eating and exercise habits than it is to change unhealthy habits later in life. Young people may form unhealthy habits as early as high school, but middle school health classes can help students make healthy diet and exercises choices.
Mental and Emotional Health
Middle school health classes help students develop the emotional skills to live a healthy life. Students learn about the dangers of bullying and other behaviors that can lead to emotional problems in youth. Characteristics of healthy relationships are discussed during middle school health classes, and some may cover stress-reduction techniques and other coping mechanisms, such as anger management.
- Advocates for Youth: The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2011
- Michigan.gov: Why Middle School Health?
- New Hampshire Department of Education: Why Health Education Is Important
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: School Health Index
- Health Smart Virginia: Seventh Grade Instructional Resources
- National Middle School Association: Healthy Kids…Healthy Learners
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Risk and Promotive Factors in Families, Schools, and Communities: A Contextual Model of Positive Youth Development in Adolescence
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