Author Archives: Sarah Benes

Welcome to!


Thank you for your interest in learning more about skills-based health education! We are excited to re-launch our blog with the start of the school year. Posts will happen every other Wednesday and will include ideas for the classroom, posts to deepen your knowledge of skills-based instruction in health education, current events/articles and questions to you, the reader to help us provide you with the information you are looking for. We want to hear from you. Thank you for being on this journey with us and we look forward to supporting conversations about skills-based health education!


Happy back to school!


~Sarah and Holly


Activities for building self-esteem

Well – its been a while since my last post. We have been snowed in here in Boston but we are finally starting to thaw and I have a bunch of ideas to share! I am going to start with two activities I implemented this week that resonated with students (my students blog reflections about class and everyone talked about the impact of these activities).

The focus of the class was self-esteem and “self” as an influence (we were discussing analyzing influences and the impact of self-esteem/self-confidence as an “influence” on health behaviors). At the beginning of the class, I had students complete two activities:

1) Students had to write 10 positive words about themselves on Post-It notes (one word per Post-It note) but the words could NOT relate to their bodies or their appearance. I informed students that this activity was for them – they would not show it to anyone but I did encourage them to post the words in their rooms (or somewhere else) as a reminder.

2) Students then had to complete either sentence: “I am BEAUTIFUL because I . . . ” or “I am AMAZING because I . . .” Again, the sentence could not be about their bodies or their appearance, After they completed this (I let them decorate the pages), they had their picture taken with the statements. I print out the pictures and write a short note on the back to each student. I also made a video montage of the pictures with theme music of MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” and Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way”.

Students haven’t gotten the pictures yet or seen the video but the feedback from the activities in class was overwhelmingly positive. Students felt that these activities were valuable for a few reasons:

  • They didn’t realize it would be so hard to write positive statements about themselves. Many commented that they could get to 5 or 6 words and then struggled. They offered some thoughts about why they thought this was the case.
  • They felt GOOD after completing the activities.
  • They appreciated the time to think about themselves and focus on the positives.
  • They felt uncomfortable sharing something positive about themselves at first but felt better since everyone was participating.
  • They realized that we do not often set aside time to help students develop self-esteem or self-confidence.
  • They realizes the impact 15 minutes could have on their feelings about themselves.

In addition to this feedback, our in class discussions included ideas for empowering students, ideas to help students to become more comfortable saying positive things about themselves, how to give and receive compliments and ways that teachers can support self-esteem and self-confidence in the classroom. There were many great ideas generated from this activity!

One of the “take-home” messages was that we need to help students gain confidence in themselves to “be an influence” their own lives and help them take control of aspects of their health (and beyond). These were engaging opening activities that lead to thoughtful discussions about self-esteem.

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” ~Dr. Seuss

February is Teen Dating Violence Prevention Month

I often find that I discover a campaign (like teen dating violence prevention month) the day or week before it is occurring and I don’t have time to plan ways to incorporate current events such as this into my teaching. I received this update via the newsletter and thought I would post since this is happening next month (not next week or tomorrow)!

When you sign for the newsletter you receive periodic updates about a variety of topics.  Sometimes it bugs me to have a million emails coming into my inbox but I do appreciate when someone else can do some work for me which is what does! They provide information, include links to other sites/information and links to lesson plans on their site – all in one email. It only takes a minute to review to see if there is anything included that is useful to me. Here is a link to sign up for the newsletter. The latest newsletter included a variety of resources related to teen dating violence (hyperlink to

Connecting your units with these types of advocacy campaigns (awareness months) can help connect students with resources, provide examples of advocacy campaigns as models for students and keeps the curriculum relevant.

You could have your students create their own advocacy projects for the school or the community to heighten awareness beyond the classroom. You could have students create brochures with information and resources for other teens (accessing information/resources and advocacy). You could have students critique the campaigns and make suggestions that could make the campaign more relevant for students. You could create a bulletin board (or have your students do it) with information and resources. Or it could be more “simple” and you could plan to cover dating violence in February (perhaps in an interpersonal communication, advocacy or decision-making unit). is also a good resource both because it is a reliable resource that has information geared toward kids, teens and adults but they also have lesson plans available! It is worth checking out if you haven’t already.

Seeing isn’t always believing

A post today from Education Week, Teens Overestimate Peers’ Involvement in Risky Behaviors, Study Finds, discusses findings that suggest that teens have misconceptions about peers engagement in a variety of health behaviors.

It supports the need for health educators to provide opportunities for students to share their perceptions and understandings of behaviors and to then address any misconceptions. It can be much more powerful for students when you can refute what they think (or knowing teenagers – what they know to be true)  rather than just presenting statistics – it can be very eye-opening and may “stick” better with students.

This would be a great article to use in an analyzing influences unit or a decision-making unit – students could discuss the implications of having these types of misconceptions – how might it affect decisions? How do peers influence our decisions? How does what we think our peers are doing influence our behaviors? What can we do about this? How do labels affect our perceptions? How do labels affect our actions?

This article could also support the need for school/community level data collection – citing national or state data is helpful but if you can have “their” data, it will make it much more meaningful.

Smoking Pot: Bad for the brain or bad research?

Here are two articles both on a recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience:

Harvard Scientists Studied the Brains of Pot Smokers, and the Results Don’t Look Good

Study of Pot Smokers’ Brains Shows That MRIs Cause Bad Science Reporting

These would be excellent articles to use to help students develop the skill of accessing valid and reliable information. There is a lot here to analyze and it is a topic that is both relevant and timely in light of changes in marijuana use laws across the country.

Looking for thought-provoking images/items for discussions and activities?

Sociological Images publishes images along with commentary meant to develop people’s “sociological imagination.” This is a great resource if you are looking for topics for discussion in your health education course! Topics on the site are wide ranging and all are associated with an image. You could provide students just the image for discussion, or the image and commentary and have students respond as a “Do Now,” or use the posts for more formal activities in which students have to analyze the images and connect to health behaviors/skills.

Most posts would fall under the “Analyzing Influences” skill. For example their most recent post, Herculean Dimorphism, discusses how modern versions of the Hercules myth show more dimorphism than ancient depictions and how the depictions of men and women in media can impact relationships and understandings of the roles of women and men. You could use this post in an activity in which students have to analyze the image and connect to societal norms, make connections to other media that show similar (or different) messages, discuss implications for this type of imagery especially since Disney movies are typically viewed by small children – how might this shape their understandings of themselves and relationships? This could even be tied to advocacy if students write letters asking companies to change the way men and women are portrayed  . . . many possibilities!

I follow their blog and there have been many posts I have flagged for use in my courses. This is an excellent resource if you are looking for thought-provoking conversation starters or prompts for activities in your health education course.