In schools, sexual education is an important part of student’s health and physical education, and although there are already long standing education guides in place, there are definite ‘gaps’ in the information students are given.
The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University has developed a program called The Practical Guide to Love, Sex and Relationships to further expand the youth of Australia’s sexual health knowledge. This new government funded program comes complete with information booklets, animated videos, teacher guides and lesson plans; each customised to different age groups for touching on various topics. The program is optional for teachers to use as an additional resource to the current curriculum.
One of the highlights of this program is the 4-8 minute animated videos used as a way to start a conversation in the class room or as an explanation for students. Drawn by award-winning Australian artist Michael Camilleri, the videos use humor, colloquial language, funny metaphors and pop culture references to make the often sensitive and embarrassing topics more accessible to teenagers.
The program is broken up into two parts for 13 and 14 year olds and another for 15 and 16 year olds with tailored age and maturity appropriate content. Each age category has a lesson plan of eight topics that run in a pre-set consecutive order designed to complement the Health and Physical Education section of Australian School Curriculum. Teachers, however have the freedom to pick and choose which topics they feel are needed for their particular group of students.
The year 7s and 8s have videos focusing on social skills building, respect in relationships, and breaking down gender, stereotypes and consent. On the other hand, the videos for year 9s and 10s have a focus more on the law, sexual diversity, desire, respect of yourself and others, and STIs and contraception. Using metaphors is a common place thing in the video series, calling condoms “party hats” and desire a “rhinoceros”, there’s a definite comedic element to lighten the mood for the students to make them more receptive to the information.
A stand-out of all the videos is the optional topic called “Porn, what you should know.” This is the first of its kind (as far as they know) video taking about the differences between pornographic content and real-life sexual relationships. By breaking down what ’porn’ and sexual content actually refers to, basically anything that is of a sexualized nature, the differences between lived experiences and the hyper sexual content is shown and the unrealistic nature of it pointed out. The video encourages audiences to be critical of porn and sexual imagery by introducing an “alternative set of standards” and expectations.
While not all the topics have associated original animated videos, the ones that don’t also have activities to teach in a fun and interesting way. The topic that talks about STIs for example, features a video on how to put on a condom by popular sexual health YouTuber Laci Green. This helps in making the potentially awkward and typical lesson of putting a condom on a banana into something more accessible on a platform they are more familiar with. Incorporating this video makes it seem like the very important skill for sexual health safety is coming from a peer rather than an adult (even though, of course, Laci is an adult herself and works with Planned Parenthood in the US).
If you’re interested in any more information about this program and want specifics on class outlines, activities and training, head over to lovesexrelationships.edu.au/ for more information.