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Learning to Make Informed Choices

What to wear, what to eat, who to get in a car with all are decisions middle schoolers face often or daily. During their health class, students discuss their growing personal responsibilities and explore health topics. Included: A health lesson for seventh graders.

Health for middle schoolers covers a range of topics, from the obligatory substance abuse education to learning to make informed decisions.

Health teacher Chris Connelly notes to the Royal 7's at Bennet Middle School that now that they are in seventh grade, they are making more decisions on their own.

"So who knows what they want to be when they grow up?" Ms. Connelly asks.

From three girls:

"A teacher."

"A nurse" "I want to get a soccer scholarship to college, then play pro soccer, then become a vet."

And from some of the boys:

"I want to be a mechanic."

"A pro basketball player."

When Ms. Connelly asks, "Who decided what to wear today?" almost all the hands went up. How did they decide?

"I woke up late, and this was the first thing I could find," a girl says.

"I picked the shoes to match the outfit," a boy adds.


Students also have a chance to present their healthful knowledge. They divide into groups and write and rehearse five-minute skits on a health topic.

Long-term substitute teacher Chris Angeli had to approve the topic. Many have views on adult issues, such as the difference in societal attitudes toward sexually active males and females.

"My thing is to let them know they have choices; they have power," Mr. Angeli says. "If they think about it, they don't make bad choices. If you can turn the peer pressure into a positive, you can build leaders at an early age."

"Is it okay if we get dramatic?" a boy asks.

Yes, Mr. Angeli assures him. "You are doing a play."


One group is done writing and is rehearsing. "Chips! Where are my chips?" a boy says, groping around on a desk. "I'll starve!"

"You should be making better choices about what you eat," another student says.

"This is about nutrition and keeping kids healthy," Stephanie, a group member says. "No one ever does anything on nutrition." Drugs and alcohol tend to be the more popular topics, she notes.

In the skit, the chip lover has been sluggish and suffering from other offensive gastrointestinal effects from eating too much junk food. The cafeteria managers bring in more healthful food offerings, and students feel better and are more attentive.

Another group is tackling the timely topic of steroid use. "You shouldn't use steroids because you think you are a lot stronger than you are," a boy says.

Peer pressure and sexual harassment also are on the health playbill. Three girls are urging a boy to get into their car. "The message is don't get in a car and don't talk to strangers," a girl notes.

Education World Goes Back to School

Education World news editor Ellen R. Delisio is spending several days a month this school year with the Royal 7's, a seventh grade team at Bennet Middle School, a grade 6 to 8 school in Manchester, Connecticut. She is observing and participating in students' learning, and talking with staff about their strategies and perspectives on improving student performance. She is a graduate of W. Tresper Clarke Junior-Senior High School in Westbury, N.Y.

(Editor's Note: All students' names have been changed) 

Article by Ellen R. Delisio
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