Making Sex Ed Fun

Making Sex Ed Fun

Remember your sex ed class? Do you remember it fondly, or with dread? My own high school sex ed program --- more than 25 years ago --- took a whopping 10 minutes. The priest led my classmates and me in the Lord's Prayer, and then reassured us that we would eventually grow out of the urge to masturbate. That was it. Lesson over. Incomplete though it was, I also have to give Father Frank credit. It was about as progressive as one might expect at an all boy's Catholic high school. Imagine what he could have said.

I still believe that 10 minutes sets all kinds of sex ed brevity records. But sometimes longer is NOT better. How many of you have sat through long hours of BORING film strips? Or today's version of boring film strips --- boring PowerPoint Slides? How many of you have listened to teachers lecture and moralize?  Or load up students with factoid after factoid, completely detatched from their REAL questions and concerns, with no method of engagement?

So, when my colleagues wrote Game On! The Ultimate Sexuality Education Gaming GuideI knew they had created something really special. STI bingo, contraceptive dominos, puberty sketchionary, healthy relationship card games, board games...Now THIS is the way to learn!

It all started at a holiday party a few years ago. A couple of educators on my staff volunteered to bring a game of their creation, merging our passion for dynamic, interactive sexuality education with our love of having fun together. We had lots of laughs as we played the first incarnation of “Smarter than a Sixth Grader…When It Comes to HIV?” and we began to think about what other lessons we could create.

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We drew up a plan to develop a sexuality education gaming manual, and our CEO, CFO and board promptly approved the use of endowment funds to support this endeavor. Two seasoned educators and trainers, Jessica Shields and Melissa Keyes DiGioia, volunteered to get started. A few months later, they presented their first professional development workshop titled “Sex Ed Games that Teach.” I have attended many sexuality education presentations during my career. Some have been interactive and team building; some have featured a great icebreaker or warm-up activity; some have been lectures or PowerPoint presentations that informed me, but bored me to tears. But I have seldom experienced such a merging of fun with learning as I did with this workshop.

I have to admit, I was expecting just the fun ---- a showcase of sex and puberty-related crossword puzzles and word searches --- but there was a whole lot more to that first workshop. The trainers had studied the pedagogy of gaming, and infused it into each of the activities they presented. They got the audience to think about the functions of gaming beyond the fun participants might have. The result was a collection of activities that were as pedagogically sound as they were entertaining.

My organization, the Center for Family Life Education, has long advocated the principles that a positive approach to sex education is the best approach, and that participants learn as much or more from each other as from the educator. Game On! embraces this ideology with learning experiences that are fun, energizing and dependent on participants communicating with each other.

The guide has 19 great lessons and a section of ready-to-use word puzzles that touch on many different aspects of sexuality – anatomy, body image, contraception, puberty, relationships, sexually transmitted infections and more! Each lesson is thoughtfully constructed with a rationale, a learning objective, detailed procedural steps, handouts and the latest knowledge about sexual health. The games present an opportunity to engage participants’ competitive spirits while they have fun and, most important, learn.

So, are you ready for some great teaching strategies? Game On!