I am very excited to announce that My Sex Ed is collaborating with CANVAS Programs on an exciting initiative to provide arts-based sexual health education to students and teachers. Please see below for more information.
Arts-Based Sexual Health Education Programming for Students and Teachers, Presented by CANVAS Programs and My Sex Ed
Who are we?
CANVAS Programs is a youth-led grassroots organization in Toronto, Canada that offers arts-based education for youth on gender, sexuality, consent and body image. Our programs use a variety of art-forms including theatre, spoken word poetry, photography and visual arts. CANVAS encourages students to engage in critical thinking about social norms and provides creative tools to combat gender-based and sexual violence, homophobia, transphobia and negative body image. We provide programming for youth in schools, community organizations and summer camps.
At the heart of CANVAS is a commitment to supporting youth in developing critical thinking skills, learning to embrace different identities and challenging harmful social norms. Through our programs, youth develop creative tools to challenge gender-based violence and bullying, and create an environment where they can feel comfortable and confident in their gender, their sexuality and their body.
Visit our website at www.canvasprograms.ca.
My Sex Ed
My Sex Ed provides holistic and sex-positive sexual health education (SHE) to a variety of audiences and populations in an engaging, accessible and inclusive manner. My Sex Ed’s current focus is to offer professional development to pre-service and service teachers as well as other educational personnel on Ontario’s 2015 Human Development and Sexual Health curricula. Inquiry, collaboration and discussion are at the forefront of our programming, which includes workshops, conference presentations, discussions at small group events (e.g. PTA meetings) and more.
In many provinces across Canada, SHE is mandatory. However, few teachers receive formal training in SHE. My Sex Ed’s workshops for teachers and other education personnel offer a well-balanced overview of theoretical and practical aspects of SHE. While it is important to understand the theories and research behind SHE, My Sex Ed also ensures that teachers establish a good understanding of SHE pedagogy through reflection, collaborative brainstorming and group discussions.
The three objectives for SHE teacher training are:
1. Curriculum. Provide educators with an in-depth overview of the curriculum content which they are required to teach.
2. Knowledge. Provide educators with a fundamental understanding of important content knowledge and topics related to sexual health (education).
3. Comfort and pedagogy. Discuss and develop best practice strategies to increase confidence in teaching SHE through a variety of activities; studies have shown that teacher comfort level and ability to teach SHE effectively are positively correlated.
Visit our website at www.mysexed.ca
Why are we collaborating?
When the founders of CANVAS Programs (Ayla Lefkowitz and Miriam Selick) and My Sex Ed (Carly Basian) met for the first time, we instantly realized the complementary potential in our work. CANVAS Programs works directly with students; their unique approach to Sexual Health Education (SHE) integrates for-youth, by-youth programming with arts-based education practices, providing meaningful spaces for students to explore gender, sexuality, consent and body image.My Sex Ed focuses on working with pre-service and service teachers, parents and other (adult) education stakeholders, providing them with the tools and resources they need to teach and discuss sexual health topics, including those covered by CANVAS.
CANVAS and My Sex Ed are collaborating to offer complementary programming for both students and teachers (as well as other education stakeholders). This collaborative approach ensures that after CANVAS has started the conversation with students, teachers have the training and expertise to continue that conversation and integrate evidence-based sex education into their curriculum.
What is our project?
At the core of our project, we want to blend the student experience with teacher training.
The leaders of CANVAS Programs and My Sex Ed bring together expertise in education, SHE and community development. As recent graduates from Bachelor and Master of Education programs, respectfully, we recognized that oftentimes workshops for students last an hour and aren’t discussed in the classroom. We want to bridge this gap by offering engaging and relevant arts-based student workshops, and train teachers in creating effective health units with cross-curricular connections.
List of potential workshop topics
● Gender, Body Image and Social Media
● Gender & Sexuality (LGBTQI identities)
● Consent and Social Media
● Body Image
List of different art forms
● Spoken Word poetry
● Mural art
Ages of students
● Option A: Middle School (Grades 6-8)
● Option B: High School (Grades 9-10)
● Option C: High School (Grades 11-12)
● Option D: High School (Grades 9-12)
Depending on the topics, art forms and student ranges, the teacher training/professional development component will be in alignment with student learning, which will ensure that teachers can help carry the conversation from the student programming. We will also offer training for teachers to teach beyond what students learned in their workshop.
Sample of a student workshop (CANVAS):
Title: Imagine This
Grades: 5 to 8
The Imagine This program uses photography as a tool to create social change and celebrate youth voices. Participants critically examine gender expectations, societal pressures, and bullying/harassment, with an emphasis on social media. The program culminates with a creative photography project that encourages positive self-expression. Participants’ photos are shared through the youth-led online photography project Imagine This.
Sample of teacher training workshop (My Sex Ed)
Title: Unpacking Ontario’s Sexual Health Education Curricula
Audience: Teachers, school administrators, non-profit organizations, parents, nurses, guidance counsellors, superintendents
This timely workshop, analyzing and understanding Ontario’s new Sexual Health Education Curriculum will be divided into three sections. In the first section participants will review the significant changes between Ontario’s previous Growth and Development/Healthy Growth and Sexuality strands (1998-2000) and the recently released Human Development and Sexual Health strand (2015). The second section will be devoted to analysis of some specific expectations to clarify any misconceptions and/or myths that have been suggested by the media. Finally, the third portion of the workshop will be dedicated to exploring how teachers can introduce and navigate some of the topics covered in the Human Development and Sexual Health strand in our Grade 1 to 12 classrooms.
For more information, please contact:
Ayla Lefkowitz and Miriam Selick
Let's Talk About This
As back to school approaches next week, the controversies surrounding Ontario’s new curriculum are flaring up yet again. While there is a lot of support for the new curriculum, there’s almost equal amounts of pushback.
There have been dozens of articles posted online, almost daily, over the last couple weeks. If you read comments in response to the articles, it isn’t uncommon to come across comments such as:
“babies are born to mom's and dad's so they can guide them through life; that is common sense and that is why they are under parents authority…”
But you also have comments in support of said articles, such as this:
"...you think that the curriculum includes ideology, a "vision", of how things should be. The major problem with this is that the curriculum teaches facts & actualities of what currently happens in our society today. I have read every part of the curriculum that has to do with sex education and there is nothing in there that is untrue. if you disagree with facts or choose to ignore them - that it your problem and your ignorance showing."
There are copious research studies proving how abstinence-based education has a positive correlation with STI, teen pregnancy and abortion rates. Colorado offered a subsidy for birth control for teenagers in 2014 (IUDs, specifically) and their teen pregnancy rate dropped 40% that year. I think that's probably greater than statistical chance.
For some research evidence, there's the Teen Survey from 2010:http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/…/…/2010/06/TTS_report.pdf and Healthy Futures from 2014: http://www.toronto.ca/…/20…/ts/bgrd/backgroundfile-80356.pdf
If people don't understand why we need sex ed, this quote says it all: "Many older students are having unsafe sex. By grade 12, one in three students reported having had sex. One in three sexually active students had more than one partner in the last 12 months. Only 60% had used a condom or other barrier the last time they had sex, increasing the likelihood of a sexually transmitted infection or pregnancy. Just 37% reported that their school sexual health class was very useful or essential."
33%, 1 in 3, a third of Grade 12 students in Toronto have had sex and nearly half didn't use a barrier method when engaging sexually. They need to get the information somewhere because we can't assume they're getting (correct) information at home, and relying on their friends (which is their #1 go-to for sex ed information as per these two studies) is not reliable either.
There’s also the religion debate (i.e. offended that sexual orientation and gender identity are discussed). However, I have heard numerous religious leaders and figures over the last few months say how they support the curriculum because at the heart of most religions is respecting and love people for who they are. Furthermore, we live in Canada – a country that supports marriage equality – as such, schools will promote diversity and inclusion that aligns with the law and Human Rights.
There is so much misinformation out there. The problem is, those who oppose the curriculum don’t listen to those who support it. Reversely, those who are pro-curriculum are not necessarily listening to those against it, and do not have the opportunity to respond to those concerns and unpack and explain the curriculum. Both sides - the pro- and anti-curriculum - need to listen to one another.
There are many other elements to the curriculum, (as stated in the curriculum documents: “Sexual health, understood in its broadest sense, can include a wide range of topics and concepts, from sexual development, reproductive health, choice and sexual readiness, consent, abstinence, and protection, to interpersonal relationships, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, affection and pleasure, body image, and gender roles and expectations.”) We are too busy focused on 1. The act of “sex” and 2. Sexual orientation and gender identity. These are two, relatively tiny, components of the overall curriculum. Not to mention Sex Ed only takes up 10% of the entire Health and Physical Education curriculum.
I would be happy to respond to any of your questions!
There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings about the new curriculum. Check out this link to test your knowledge! It gives you an explanation for each answer as well, which are very accurate.