Exploring the power of Object Based Learning for Relationships and Sex Education

On Friday I had the honour of being invited to speak at University of Exeter about my experiences as a practitioner working on the Sex & History Project. (N.B. I co-wrote the FREE RSE lesson pack here and and lessons exploring gender and sexual diversity here for LGBT history month and beyond!)  Unfortunately due to the snow I had to Skype in and not be there in person to run a workshop, so I also wanted to summarise my thoughts in a blog post.

The topic I chose to talk about was The Power of ‘Object-Based Learning’ for Relationships and Sex Education.  For those of you who don’t know Object Based Learning is using an object (historical object/ 3D printed model or any physical solid 3D thing!) to spark a conversation and learn something new. (Or a more academic description: “Object-Based Learning (OBL) is a student-centred learning approach that uses objects to facilitate deep learning. Objects may take many forms, small or large, but the method typically involves students handling or working at close quarters with and interrogating physical artefacts.”. I first heard of it as a concept in a meeting with Melany Rose Education Manager at the British Museum. Then seeing the Ain Sakhri lovers on display there really bought it home to me the difference in learning between seeing the actual physical object is compared to learning from photo of the object (both have value but for some objects seeing them for yourselves gives a extra layer of understanding)


3D Printed Uterus model

In Sex & History, we often have to use photographs of the objects rather than actual handling materials because these are rare museum pieces that are valuable and can’t be handled by a class of teenagers in case they are damaged! However, last year I was lucky enough to lead a teacher training workshop at Brighton and Hove Museum where they had a 3D printed Venus of Willendorf to handle alongside looking at actual objects from the museum’s collection. It was fascinating to watch the teachers engage with the piece in new and unexpected ways when physically able to handle the object rather than just look at it behind glass or in a photograph or image on a screen.  At Sex and History we are gathering a small collection of handling objects (such as examples similar to these erotic fruits)  and actively exploring 3D printing of replica objects in order to further utilise the opportunities and benefits of OBL.

For my workshop with practitioners and academics from UK and Germany I had been planning to provide a huge range of objects covered with a sheet and ask individuals to choose an object they were most interested in learning more about asking the questions: “what is it?” “how could it be used for relationships and sex education?” (whilst also making it very clear that any object chosen did not reflect anything personal about the participant choosing it!). Experiencing the value of object based learning for yourself is a powerful lesson in its value for sex education.


Venus of Willendorf

Although this concept may seem foreign to many teachers of RSE I think that many RSE teachers are doing OBL all the time anyway without realising. Condoms demonstrations and passing around different methods of contraception to have a much closer look at all count as OBL! Being able to see, touch, feel, handle, move and rotate an object relating to relationships and sex education can create discussions and questions that you would never get without the physical object being present.

The benefits of object based learning (as well as possible objects to use) can be set out as follows:

  • Icebreakers– can help defuse tensions and create safer spaces by using certain objects like knitted uteruses/vulvas/penises/or cuddly STI toys.  Crocheted body parts have been used with particular success in Brighton and Hove with an RSE project for young unaccompanied asylum seekers in single sex groups (that I have been supporting in the background), as a way of kick starting safe fun conversations about their bodies.  These young people may come from cultures where such knowledge about their own bodies is sometimes seen as taboo and often not talked about, and cultural understandings of consent can be very different.  The benign fun nature of knitted or crocheted objects provide such a safe space to start having conversations which can then over time lead into trickier conversations such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). 


  • Starters- Start the conversation off by passing round an object “what is this” “what might it be used for” “how is it used?” “why does it exist” can create fascinating conversations. You could use things like wedding rings, engagement rings (non-valuable ones!!) to start conversations about marriage and relationships, gender, power and control (who wears the engagement ring- why?) and extend the conversation to explore the use of rings used for chastity (silver ring thing) or fidelity pledges or use of neck rings in marriage or sign of beauty. Something so simple as a small silver or gold band can start a conversation that could go on for a whole lesson if you plan it right and are skilled in your questioning and how you manage discussions.
  • Investigators and Interrogators  Supplying a range of objects can be used to explore and interrogate patterns and assumptions in society. For example , menstrual products, intimate washes, soaps, razors, make up. hair straighteners, Protein shakes, Pilates balls, gendered clothing or shoes. What objects make us feel good about ourselves, what make us feel bad, which are designed for men/women? what are essential? which are cultural? etc.                                                                          Or you could do the fab The Sensual Star activity (from Jo Adams who developed the RU Ready? Program) where you supply a wide range of objects that can be used to stimulate the five senses: touch, taste, sight, sound and smell. eg. perfumes/scented candles/sound bowl/musical instruments for sound; chocolate/fruits/ massagers or objects with rough or smooth textures eg. silk scarves and have a conversation about sensuality and what are our favorite objects against each of the five senses. This can be drawn and decorated on a “Sensual Star” (a 5 pointed star with each sense allocated to a point).
  • Confidence building Adolescence can be a tricky time with lots of new things to master that people often don’t talk in detail to you about. For example you can also use a range of disposable and reusable menstrual products or range of antiperspirants and deodorants to kick start conversations about puberty, hygiene and menstruation. Familiarity with some of the products they may need to use in their lives can build confidence about talking about, purchasing and using them.
  • Reassurance about whats ‘normal’– exploring the range of variation in bodies by passing around objects of different sizes analogous to human bodies (E.g. as well as using knitted objects with some inner labia longer than outer labia etc, I also have a range of different sized condom demonstrators (and TheyFit is a great site to share). It also encourages young people to feel more comfortable talking about their bodies when I get out Lady Penelope it is fascinating (and really sad) to realise how many girls do not have any real understanding of how their own bodies work. 

  • Visualising how things work Until you have seen an actual IUD/IUS in the flesh and seen on a diagram or model of female reproductive tract how it works, then it can be quite hard to conceptualise. Likewise seeing the actual size of an implant (a matchstick can work here or small matchstick sized piece of ultra fine tubing), the contraceptive ring (the inner ring of an internal condom (femidom) works) then it can be hard to understanding or visualise how such methods work.  Also Object based learning is also vital for visually impaired students if you can’t see then being able to handle and be talked through anatomy or using methods of contraception is very important.
  • New directions for discussions Talking about STI testing can be a little dry sometimes but passing round a chlamydia testing kit and allowing a look at a urine testing pot, a swab kit, or passing round a speculum can help make the conversation more interesting. I’m also very interested in exploring how every day objects like a wire coat hanger could open up discussions on abortion, or egg white or flour paste or cottage cheese in petri dishes could open up conversations about normal vaginal discharge! A small Venus of Willendorf (I now have one of my own) could open up conversations about body image, breasts, weight, sexiness, fertility!

Speculum, swab and urine testing kits.

  • Exploring new frontiers (knowledge, learning and technology!)- the 3D printed clitoris is my FAVE object for getting a conversation going about sexual pleasure and anatomy (and I still think it is outrageous that this wasn’t mapped until 1998). I now have a 3D printed uterus and I am hoping to get a vulva too. 3D printing for sex ed could be incredible!


    Range of 3D printed clitorises

  • Consolidating learning. In youth group settings we sometimes use a “talking stick” or other object as a tool to signify who can talk and who needs to listen. We also sometimes pass an object round to close a session with each person holding the object says one thing they have learned about the session before passing it on to the next person. While I can see their might be potential for silliness if certain objects were used (!) I can also see there is potential in having a particular object close a session quite powerfully.  I am thinking something like a small squishy heart stress toy to pass round and feedback on notions of romantic love and why the heart is seen as a symbol for love and how that can make people feel. The level of SQUEEZE could indicate how much the session was enjoyed or not!


How would you use object based learning in your setting and what do you think are the benefits? Please comment below!


This post is bought to you with thanks to Sex & History Project for funding me to do this work. Rhian Drinkwater for her expert knitting skills (the uteri were knitted by a sexual health campaign up north and to my horror I can’t remember who to thank them- if it was you please shout!), Lovehoney for supplying me with loads of kit.  Ben O’Steen for 3D printing  this file designed by Odile Filod for me and putting me in touch with Valeria Vitale from  Institute of Classical Studies, Senate House who has also indulged my 3D printing whims and needs using the Odile Filod file and the Vulvacademy files (with thanks to @Gareth Cheeseman for sharing the link to Vulvacademy files)!


My Wellbeing Toolkit- A free resource for those working with young people.

So recently I learned how to use Google Drawings and at the same time this post from the awesome friend @PookyH  inspired me to think about wellbeing action plans. So this afternoon I started to have a  play with google drawings (partly because I was having a play for my own Wellbeing Action Plan- you need to practice what you preach after all!) and I came up with something that if printed on A3 might be useful for those working with young people.


My Wellbeing Toolkit (1)


It is adapted from the 5 Ways to Wellbeing and I also added some explanatory info to help young people with filling it in. It is probably aimed at secondary aged pupils due to some of the language but when I get a mo, I will look at doing a primary version.

Notes on Completing My Wellbeing Toolkit (2)

Anyhow I hope you find this helpful and I provide the PDF for printing on A3 here MyWellbeingToolkit: and the explanatory notes here:Notes on Completing My Wellbeing Toolkit

Any feedback, I would love to hear it. I am still learning with Google drawings and I am no designer but I am finding it a really easy to use and fun tool (and Google docs in general is awesome for collaborative work!).

Happy Educating!



Condom Olympics- A demo video

So a few weeks ago I participated in Teachmeet Taunton and decided to introduce the world to Condom Olympics.  To contextualise this I gave everyone a copy of the lesson plan for this session a version of which I have made available for free on TES Resources.

This lesson maybe good for Science (material properties), D&T (Product Design, Material properties), Business Studies (product development) etc. as well as PSHE teaching about the limitations of condoms in a fun and engaging way.   This lesson isn’t necessarily one I would teach all students (in a time tight curriculum I often have more pressing material to cover) but for some students it will engage them around condom safety in a way that other lessons wouldn’t, so as with all lessons- use your professional judgement to work out what is best for your learners.

The key messages might be:

Oil based lubricants, fingernails, over stretching will all damage condoms but also condoms are very resilient to stretching (fitted 4cans of beans in one condom with room for more- and held over a litre of water before bursting) therefore used properly they are very safe. Condoms are tricky to put on if you are impaired (drunk goggles/in dark), and that condoms are effective at keeping semen in but the blacklight shows the need to wash hands and “penis” afterwards.

The video of my efforts can be seen below (apologies for being painfully loud at times. I have no volume control!)

From left to right the activities are:

  • Rubbing waterbased and oil based lubricants onto blown up condoms (oil based will pop)
  • Picking up paperclips with a condom over your hand
  • How much water can a condom hold (over a bowl!)
  • How many tins will fit in a single condom
  • Drunk goggles- trying to get a condom on the demonstrator
  • Condom in a TV box- demo a condom whilst you can’t see
  • Ejaculating condom demonstrator, with UV sensitive artificial semen and Blacklight

I owe huge thanks to my awesome “Condom Athletes” who helped the activity go with a bang. (literally at 1.18mins in!).  All participants got a “Condom Gold Medal” (the condoms were kindly donated by Pasante and I bought the medals from the party shop!)IMG_1494

Throughly enjoyed my first teachmeet experience and looking forward to the next one TM Exeter where I’m going to do a less fun but very important top tips for challenging homophobia and transphobia. Hope to see you there!

How to make your own “artificial semen” or “UV sensitive fluid” for condom demonstrations.

When doing a condom demonstration I like to use an ejaculating condom demonstrator with UV sensitive fluid (artificial semen) and a blacklight to show that semen can still be present on the penis (and hands) even if they look clean post “ejaculation”. This highlights the need to be careful post coitally and not to get intimate again without clean hands/another condom etc, otherwise you maybe at risk of sexually transmitted diseases or unplanned pregnancy.

I recently ran out of my Health Edco UV sensitive Fluid and although it is £6.95 they have a minimum order charge of £20 plus its about £10 P&P so in order to try and save money I thought I would have a bash (no pun intended) at making my own.  I do also have this non UV sensitive artificial semen but its very grittty (eh?! and Urgh!) and tends to go off after a year plus the lack of UV sensitivity ruins part of my demo, so I tend not to use it if I can.

A discussion on twitter on how to get UV sensitivity suggested laundry brightener and then just a white liquid soap or shampoo for the “semen”.

UPDATE 10th March 2014. Have found a much better way. Scroll to end!

So you will need the following:


A clean jar (I just washed out my old jar of UV sensitive fluid). Some laundry brightener (about £3) and some white liquid soap (about 90p).

I filled the jar three quarters full of soap and stirred in half a sachet of laundry brightener.


Something very odd happened. The previously powdered laundry brightener clumped into hard solid lumps…..


and so far I have not been totally able to get rid of them. However the UV sensitivity is excellent!


I ended up adding the rest of the sachet of brightener and topped up the jar to full with the liquid soap.


The solution has oddly gone runnier than it was when the two things weren’t mixed- I thought it would go a bit thicker with a powder being added to a thick liquid, so I am pondering adding some cornflour to thicken it up! It also doesn’t have the slightly translucent quality that my previous jar of UV sensitive fluid (and real semen) does and to be honest it looks a smidge radioactive in the jar (tinge of fluorescent yellow/green)! Overall, I am reasonably pleased with the result even if its appearance isn’t as good as the Health Edco stuff, the UV sensitivity in my homemade stuff is far superior making this demo much more obvious when working with larger groups and since it is so much cheaper to make then I’m happy!

By the way real semen would probably glow under a black light but not to the vivid extent that my homemade artificial stuff does! My homemade artificial stuff also smells very strongly of soap and laundry unlike the real deal which many say smells like Bleach but heck its in the same genre of “cleaning fluid smells”. 😉 Ha!

I have enough liquid soap and sachets of brightener left to make up about 3 or 4 more batches (so £1 a batch instead of £20!) but as I only use 3-5ml at a time (the average ejaculation size) per demonstration, then I think this lot will last me a while so long as it doesn’t react/go off in the coming weeks. I will keep an eye and keep you posted.

Hope this post helps any cheapskate sex educators out there :D.  If you would like a copy of my 25 page indepth guide to doing a condom demonstration with young people (or anyone over 13 really) then you can email me on sexedukation@gmail.com it costs £3.50 or is provided free on condom demonstration training courses I deliver, just contact me for more details.




UPDATE 10/4/14

Turns out white hand soap on its own is UV sensitive (feel a bit silly for not trying that first and faffing with the laundry brightener! So basically you can ignore the entire post above but leaving it for posterity of the daft things I do for my job). I bought an 80p one from the supermarket and I will easily have enough for thousands of demonstrations.  The added bonus is it will not clog your demonstrator, usually when training I pack away hurriedly and sometimes forget to flush the tubes of the demonstrator. One time I was doing a training and the tiny plug of artificial semen that rose majestically from the end of the demonstrator caused a hysteria that was hard to come back from so to speak.  But I have discovered that hand soap doesn’t seem to solidify in the same way as have just flushed the tubes with water as I am training this arvo and it was all clear and soapy fresh.   😀

Happy Educating

Help for educators in dealing with sexualised media including pornography.

Today an article of mine was published in the TES-

Should we panic about Pornography?

Alongside this Spencer Williams and I wrote a guide for Teachers with some ideas and tips on how to cover it in lessons. This document also covers reference to the two main commercially available educational resources dealing with Porn and links to training courses and further reading.  It is a collaborative working document and will be updated as we go along so if you have any ideas or resources you want to share please do!

Pornography- Tips in how to address in SRE lessons.

It can be downloaded as a PDF – all you need is a TES Login.

Happy Educating.

Smoking, Packaging and PSHE &Citizenship

Slightly off topic post from me today. A friend of mine is involved in this campaign and I think it’s a good one to share with Citizenship\PSHE teachers. I think there is a lot of scope to do some work with young people around this. Maybe as a citizenship project? Could also be interesting to do some follow on work linking it to sex in the media and whether young people can think of a campaign that might support young people with their body image or not to feel pressurised into sex they are not ready for, maybe by plain packaging not airbrushing celebrities or putting sexy advertising where kids can’t see it? just some musings- let me know how you get on and do sign up to the campaign!

Smoking facts for kids

our children. Visit the Plain Packaging Campaign
for more information and to pledge your support.

International Woman’s Day- Teaching about Consent.

Happy International Women’s Day!

“Today Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg shows his support for The Home Office’s Teenage Rape Prevention campaignlaunched on 5 March. He warns that rape is not just about violent attacks by strangers but also includes non-consensual sex within a relationship and highlights the need to get young people talking about the importance of consent.”

Taken from my Sex Education Forum Bulletin I just received via email- you can get it too by signing up here.

Consent can be a tricky thing to teach.  As well as covering the legal aspects of consent it is important to discuss notions of active consent and what abuse and coercion can look like. I really really love the way Scarleteen do this here (About navigating consent) and here (about body boundaries).

An interesting way to explore consent with young people is to discuss different scenarios with them with giving them traffic light cards (a red, amber, green card) and reading out a lengthy scenario and asking them to hold up the card as to whether the point in the story is Consenting (Green- good to go), Consensual grey area/ unsure (Amber) or Non-Consenting (Red -Stop).

The main scenario types you should explore are:

a) “Consent” under the influence of drink or drugs.

b) “Consent” under the influence of one partner’s coercion.

c) “Consent” due to previous sexual activities being consented to.

It can be very interesting to do this with the young people closing their eyes to remove peer pressured responses, and to compare the responses from the different genders. It can be tricky sometimes to come to a “consensus on consent” so allow plenty of time for discussion.

Also very interesting to use the Haven’s Where is your line? Campaign Video using the traffic light cards. (bewarned it is a hard hitting video so view it first to assess suitability for your class).

These are just some of the ways I like to explore consent with young people. I have many more ideas but I am supposed to be on maternity leave and no time to blog them all!!

If you have any more ideas for exploring consent with young people please do share them.

Happy Educating.

A lesson idea- A baby cries- The realities of parenthood

Recently I have been pondering about how hard it is to be a parent (having a newborn, a tantruming toddler and losing your dad in the space of a few weeks will do that to you!).  It’s a difficult message to get across to wannabe future parents as really you can’t get any proper idea of how hard it is until you actually experience it for yourself.  Some schools have access to those RealCareBabies (which cry and need looking after (with different settings from placid baby to very challenging) and a computer chip records how well the student did) for their parenting lessons. But these are an extremely expensive resource and not available to every student.  They also don’t give any of the lovely aspects of parenthood, the smiles, the coo’s, the chuckles, watching the change in development every single day.  Also the research is limited as to their effectiveness in teenage pregnancy prevention (a “white paper” produced by the company was all I could find in the time I had and I wasn’t convinced by their evidence!)  *

I think the most important thing to consider when choosing resources to use around parenting education is what you are aiming to get out of them, and whether they offer value for money.  Talking to other colleagues about such products the consensus seems to be that they are useful for stimulating a lively and informative discussion, but very limited use in behaviour or attitudinal change**, and frankly I don’t think they are worth the money.   I’m passionate about supporting teachers with tools that are easily accessible and easy to use so I have been pondering alternatives (cheap/free) to RealCare Babies (I tried “flour babies” once in a school- by that afternoon other kids (not in my class) had turned the “flour babies” into “flour bombs” so the Head called a stop to that little experiment! Ooops!).  As a less messy alternative  I decided to take a  recording of my darling 7week old crying (unfortunately babies do cry sometimes even when fed, changed, winded etc- this was one of those times- I’m not some horrible meanie who records my daughter instead of tending to her needs! She was being cuddled and rocked while I recorded and settled soon after)

I was pondering about the whether and how this recording could be used in lessons to explore one of the realities of new parenthood. The sound of a crying baby can be absolutely torturous to hear especially on next to no sleep, as Sarah comments below “I never knew the anger and frustration a baby crying could ignite in a person” and I think this aspect is worthwhile exploring with anyone considering becoming a parent as part of a balanced planned program of parenting education ie. not one that focuses solely on the negatives of parenthood!  I often think sex education can often be guilty of focusing too much on the negatives and not on the positives of sex, relationships, pregnancy and parenting with some kind of misguided “preventative approach” but I don’t think this is effective.  The most important thing supporting students to be able to  think critically about their future options and what may affect them and help them with developing skills to cope with what life throws at them.  Using this recording and lesson ideas should be done with this in mind.

Some of the  ideas I had about how this recording might be used:

a) Play it at random intervals during lessons on parenting. Whenever it plays the students have to stop what they are doing pat their shoulders and rock back and forth for while going sh sh sh sh sh for at least 5 minutes after the recording played (to give them an idea of how dull and hard it can be to settle an upset baby!) (for extra effect you could always throw curdled milk (vomit) (or even chicken korma sauce (nappies)) at them- but perhaps that is overkill- hehe!).

b) Play the recording and brainstorm all the reasons that could have caused the crying (hungry, tired, bored, teething, windy, ill, stressed, uncomfortable, dirty nappy, overstimulated etc etc) and what needs to be done (make sure you include sometimes babies just cry even when you have covered all the bases.) Discuss with the class how the recording makes them feel. How would it make them feel if the crying continued for hours or was every 20 minutes all night long? Discuss the kind of support they might need with dealing with a crying newborn. Get students to ask people they know who already have babies how they feel about their babies crying and report back to the class.

c) Play the recording on a loop in the background for a section of the lesson. Discuss with the students how it made them think and feel, were they able to concentrate? Did they feel resentful of the noise? If the noise continued what would they have done. Discuss with them how they felt about their focus becoming the needs of a  crying baby rather their own needs in the lesson.

Do you have any better ideas about how to use such a recording? If you do use it in a lesson I would love to hear how it went- please comment below or email me!

If you do such a lesson I think it would be worthwhile exploring and discussing with the young people how they felt about the lesson. What did it make them think about being a parent? Do they think it was a sucessful lesson and why?

Disclaimer: This approach isn’t a tried and tested approach- I have never used the recording in a lesson but I would be interested to see how such a lesson went and what the young people thought of it as an approach.

*At some point- (when less sleep deprived!) I will do a proper blogpost about RealCare Babies and the Teens and Toddlers approach and in fact other strategies supposedly designed to reduce teenage/unplanned pregnancy and the issues around that.

** and there is another blogpost in that around behaviour/attitudinal change and sex and relationships education! (watch this space!)

Poems about HIV/AIDS written by South African children & young people.

Today is World AIDS day and a day I always take time to reflect on my time spent working in KaNyamazane on an HIV/AIDS education project. (first as a volunteer and then a subsequent year as a co-ordinator)  It was the most incredible amazing experience of my life and it changed me for ever.  I wouldn’t be doing the job I do now if it wasn’t for my time out there.

The poems below are so moving and incredible when you also consider that some of the students writing them were only in Grade 7 of Primary school (the equivalent of Y6) and were writing them in their second language.  I have written them exactly as they were written.  These are the young people’s voices and their  perspective and experiences.  N.B Trigger warning- some of you may find the content of these poems distressing- especially the one about rape.

These poems are very powerful if read out in World AIDS Day assemblies.

Please see end of this post for further notes on these poems.

I can get through a beautiful lady
And strip her beauty out
I can drive the world crazy
And shake even the most handsome guys,
AIDS can move and kill even the president
And his wife is nothing to AIDS
When AIDS is angry nobody can stand his anger

Grade 7B
Primary school KaNyamazane, South Africa

Virus you are virus
Because you live in blood only
You are a syndrome
Collection of diseases
You kill young adult young child
You kill heros and zeros

Primary school KaNyamazane, South Africa

Why me?
Hospitals and clinics,
Are full of people
Affected by HIV/AIDS
Doctor and nurse are
Trying to save each soul

Everyone is opening mortuary business
Of a day
Home spaces are being decreased
Grave yard increasing

We as a nation must stand and fight the virus
We are all infected and affected by HIV/AIDS

Grade 6B
Primary school KaNyamazane, South Africa

What an illness
My life is meaningless
You make my life lifeless
You make me hopeless
What an illness

You don’t care who you kill
It old and young
Big and small
Bad or good
What an illness

The sky was blue
Now its black
People hate each other
Because of you HIV/AIDS
What an illness

Primary school KaNyamazane, South Africa

HIV and AIDS poem
AIDS kills, AIDS has no friend,
Always be carefully and
Abstain from sex
Look around and round
Our mothers and fathers are
Not with us today
Because of this disease
Please try to abstain from sex

Teenagers look carefully
Look and look,
Study and study
To those who are affected and try
And get a good lesson

Never ever try to know
Sex without marriage is
Not good because one day
You have to get suffering and
Nobody can help you

Primary school KaNyamazane, South Africa

Poem about HIV/AIDS*

There is a disease around the world
The disease try to destroy all people who live in the world
I want to say don’t have sex when you are young
AIDS is the killer

AIDS is there and AIDS is live
When the man want to have sex with you
Say no because if you say no you protect yourself

All people don’t forget that you are HIV positive,
All people hate you because they
Scared to get the disease.

I want to say into all girl stop having sex
When you unmarried because you get a problem
With this disease
And no-one want you as a wife

And I want to say into the boys don’t
Force a girl to have sex because we get a disease
And the disease is the killer

Primary school KaNyamazane, South Africa

AIDS poem
HIV/AIDS what a deadly disease you are.
You destroy and kill the nation
If only people would realise
Your danger
They would try to protect themselves

Its here and going nowhere
If people of the world would have known you
None of this would be happening.
People of different races, sexes and cultures,
Are vanishing into the thin air

If people of the world knew you were
This deadly disease
They would act straight.

It will be here for centuries to come
So lets start now, and teach our young ones
To know better and not be destroyed by it

The next generation will come and it will still be here
One only thing, it will be there
But it won’t destroy generations to come.

They would have been taught and would
Know of this deadly
Here and will destroy no more

All because of knowledge
And power of choice
Here and going nowhere

Grade 7A
Primary school KaNyamazane, South Africa

AIDS is a killer disease
Aid is not expensive

Because of an illness
The cause of killer illness

HIV is stand for
Human Immunodeficiency virus
AIDS is stand for
Aquired immunodeficiency syndrome

Don’t go away to night
With boys, because AIDS is here
If you don’t respect your parents
Because of AIDS
Because of Boys
AIDS is kill

If you have AIDS
Eat fruits
And soft food and vegetables
If you have AIDS you have
Many illness cause of AIDS

If you have AIDS
You have some wound
Some Headache, Backache,
Some come thin and tall

Some have AIDS go
To rape children and
Said if you sleep with children
AIDS go away.

Primary schoolKaNyamazane,South Africa

Rape Poem***
Don’t be quiet
When someone
Touch your private
Go to the police
To report him or her

When somone rape you
Tell your mam or your
Friends because you
Will die or you will found
The AIDS or you will become

Do not go to the tavern
Because when the mans
was drink, they will rape
you or they will kill you
don’t ask the lift because
they will rape you.

Primary school KaNyamazane, South Africa

* Culturally the young people writing these poems are living in a time of mixed messages (like our U.K young people).  They were getting strong messages from church, teachers and family that sex before marriage was a sin and it would be their own fault if they got HIV because having sex caused it therefore abstinence was the only way to protect themselves, combined with lots of health promotion campaigns about safer sex, rape  prevention, campaigns to address stigma and prejudice for people living with HIV.  I think this confusion comes across in their poetry.

**  You will notice that a few of them mention eating vegetables to stay healthy.  I am not entirely sure whether this is linked to Mbeki’s- “sweet potato HIV cure” era – I rather more think it was due to the fact that in the absence of any anti-retroviral therapy being available then staying fit and healthy was the most widespread piece of health promotion for those living with HIV.

*** In South Africa rape is unfortunately a huge issue.  Although huge inroads have been made into combatting the myth -“Having sex with a virgin will cure you of HIV”, when I was there I definitely saw its continuing ugly existence from talking to people.  Sadly in some utterly horrific cases this has lead to babies being raped.  I worked in a rape crisis centre out there for a while and some of the cases we saw absolutely broke my heart, and the strength and resilience some of the survivors showed was truly awe inspiring. Many young people I worked with had either experienced rape or knew someone close to them who had.   Rape prevention campaigns were widespread but as you can see the notion of victim blaming (Ie. say no to unwanted sex, don’t go near drunk men etc) are widespread (as they are in this country).    I decided to leave the Rape Poem in as although distressing – that was her voice and her experience and I was not going to silence it/sanitise it for the sake of my blog readers.

Please take a moment to reflect on these poems and consider how you could use the voice of these young people in your classroom/school.

Using Music in SRE lessons

Following on from a twitter discussion about the powerful effect of music and how this could be harnessed in health education,  the awesome and lovely @DrSchroe was kind enough to email me a list of suggestions around using music in SRE lessons.  I was so inspired by this I wanted to adapt it into a blogpost for you  (but Elizabeth deserves most of the credit for this post- all her fab suggestions are in italics! Thankyou so much!)

1.  Having music playing when students come in.  “Sounds so basic, but I’ve used music anywhere from just setting a welcoming environment, to having a song that’s a preview for the topic we’ll be discussing that day.  For example, I might have “She bop” by Cyndi Lauper or “I Touch Myself” by the Divynls playing if the topic is masturbation.  I do this with video clips, too.  Also, for students with the musical learning intelligence, it helps to focus them — we so overlook this intelligence when we educate, no matter what topic area it is!”.  

Music can be so effective as a mood setter. If I need the mood to be sombre and serious particularly if I am doing visualisations with the group around what it feels like to be LGBT or having a positive pregnancy or STI test then I might play something by Ludovico Einuadi- which is all instrumental. I especially like this one. Yann Tiersen is also good for these types of activities.  Remember though at the end of the activity it is important to also break a sombre mood created with a very upbeat song such as this or this.  I love the idea of using the song “I touch myself” to introduce the topic of masturbation with certain groups  and I might have to include that next time I teach it if appropriate for that group!  Other sex ed related songs you could think about using/discussing might be “every sperm is sacred”, or “let’s talk about sex”– do you any other suitable suggestions?  One I suggest you DEFINITELY DON’T USE use with young people (well unless you have a career ending death wish 😉 is Consolidated (featuring the Yeastie girls): You suck!

2.  Analyze the music, lyrics and video.  “One of the things I’ve noticed is that a lot of the times what is communicated through the video for a song is not what’s in the song itself.  The examples I’ll give you are outdated ones, but I’ll share them for context:  Madonna’s Express Yourself is a song about empowerment and strength, but the video is all about being trapped, chained, etc.  Another is “The Reason” by Hoobastank — it’s a beautiful song about someone trying to be a better person for his partner — yet the video image is about a jewelry heist.  Talking about what the visual and music communicate then leads into discussions about relationships, communication or whatever the topic is that you’ll be discussing.

One thing I caution people about, though, is to not set up the students by showing them an image or listening to a song and labeling what they’ve seen or heard as negative.  This is really hard for me, especially when I use rap lyrics.  Every part of me wants to say, “Isn’t this SO misogynistic?” but that would shut them down.  So I ask them questions about how they feel about/react to it, which they gets us into our lesson on gender roles, norms, etc.”

Again I love this idea (any other video suggestions dear readers?) and think certain current artists- (eg. Rihanna) have a lot of video content that is definitely worth exploring and discussing with young people, to try and help them gain skills in critically analyse some of the explicit messages in the videos.

3.  Require them to integrate music into projects. ” A lot of times, this is a given — but if they are using technology anyway, or making a voiceover, or a video or a blog, etc., ask them to integrate music.  Sometimes, this can be connected to the topic — such as, “find me a song that communicates to me what you think a healthy relationship is” — or, it can be, “If you were mapping the path of an egg going down a fallopian tube, what kind of theme music would we hear?”  Makes it more fun and engaging — and is surprisingly revealing on how they think/feel about a particular topic.”

One thing we’ve done successfully on a vulnerable girls project I support is ask the girls to bring a piece of music that really speaks to them and do a short presentation about what the music is and why it means so much.  This really increased the girls confidence in sharing stuff as a group. A strong team bond was built from this and the deeper work around sex and relationships was much more effective as a result.

Developing educational materials using music “creating raps, songs, asking the room to write a song, create rhythms, etc.  It’s so creative, and again, gets them to think about the often overlooked musical intelligence.”

I think teachers often shy away from using music in lessons but getting students to create their own stuff is brilliant, for world AIDS day one year we had some really impressive poems, songs and raps written about how what the students had learned and how they felt about the pandemic.  Really impressive.

All in all I hope that provides you with some ideas about how to incorporate music into your SRE lessons. If you have other ideas please do share them, we’d love to hear them!