The Ministry of Education has introduced a revised Ontario Curriculum: Health and Physical Education Grades 1-8, (2019) to replace the interim 2018 document. There is also a new Program/Policy Memorandum 162: Exemption from Instruction related to the Human Development and Sexual Health Expectations, Grades 1–8, (2019) to accompany the updated curriculum document. This memorandum outlines the process for communicating with families about Strand D: Growth and Development and Sexual Health and the process for parents/guardians to exempt their child(ren) from this learning.
HWDSB has informed elementary parents/guardians that learning on Strand D: Growth and Development and Sexual Health will occur in May and June. Here is what families can expect as we approach these dates:
- A board-wide Parent Information Night via Teams Live will be held on March 23 from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. Join the MS Teams Live session here.
- An exemption form will need to completed if parents/guardians want their child(ren) exempted from this learning. The form is now available and can be accessed through Parent Portal. It can be found in the ‘Forms’ section under ‘Other’ and is titled “Human Development and Sexual Health Exemption”. Paper copies and/or phone calls to schools will also be accepted if Parent Portal is not an option.
- Teachers will send individual letters regarding classroom activities and learning to parents/guardians in May.
For additional information ahead of these events, parents/guardians can view HWDSB’s Health and Physical Education Parent Guide and the Ministry of Education curriculum document below. We have also included the Human Development and Sexual Health Expectations for Grades 1-8 and a list of Frequently Asked Questions to give families a better understanding of the material that will be taught at each level.
If the resources included below do not address your questions or concerns, parents/guardians should contact their child(ren)’s classroom teacher. If questions or concerns continue to persist, the conversation should move to the school’s principal.
Parent Guide: HWDSB Parent Guide: Health and Physical Education
Ministry of Education Curriculum Document: The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: Health and Physical Education, 2019 – revised
Human Development – Parent Information Night Presentation:
A recording of the March 23, 2022 presentation can be found at https://youtu.be/vznKh8rjl88 or viewed below:
Human Development and Sexual Health: Grades 1-8 Expectations
- Identify body parts, including genitalia (e.g., penis, testicles, vagina, vulva), using correct terminology and body-positive language
- Identify the five senses and describe how each functions (e.g., sight: the eyes give the brain information about the world to help us see colours, shapes, and movement; touch: receptors in the skin tell us how things feel – if they are hot, cold, wet, dry, hard, soft; hearing: the ears pick up vibrations and send messages to the brain to help us hear sounds that are loud or soft, high- or low-pitched; smell and taste: the tongue is covered with thousands of taste buds and the nose has tiny hairs and nerves that send messages to the brain about how things taste and smell)
- Demonstrate an understanding of and apply proper hygienic procedures for protecting their own health and preventing the transmission of disease to others (e.g., washing hands with soap, using a tissue, sleeve sneezing, brushing and flossing teeth, not sharing hats or hairbrushes)
- Outline the basic stages of human development (e.g., infant, child, adolescent, adult, older adult) and related changes, and identify physical, mental, social, and environmental factors that are important for healthy growth and living throughout life
- Demonstrate the ability to identify and appreciate aspects of how their bodies work and describe what they can do to ensure that they will continue to appreciate their bodies as they grow and change
- Demonstrate an understanding of and apply practices that contribute to the maintenance of good oral health (e.g., brushing, flossing, going to the dentist regularly for a checkup)
- Identify the characteristics of healthy relationships (e.g., accepting and respecting differences, avoiding assumptions, being inclusive, communicating openly, establishing and respecting personal boundaries, listening, showing mutual respect and caring, being honest) and describe ways of responding to bullying and other challenges (e.g., exclusion, discrimination, peer pressure, abuse) and of communicating consent in their interactions with others
- Identify factors (e.g., sleep, food, physical activity, heredity, environment, support from a caring adult, sense of belonging, peer influence) that affect physical development (e.g., of hair, skin, teeth, body size and shape), social-emotional development (e.g., of self-awareness, adaptive skills, social skills), and the development of a healthy body image (e.g., of the ability to enjoy, respect, and celebrate one’s body, to acknowledge one’s thoughts and feelings about it, to accept its shape and size and to focus instead on what it can do)
- Describe how visible differences (e.g., skin, hair, and eye colour; facial features; body size and shape; physical aids or different physical abilities; clothing; possessions) and invisible differences (e.g., learning abilities, skills and talents, personal or cultural values and beliefs, mental illness, family background, personal preferences, allergies and sensitivities) make each person unique, and identify ways of showing respect for differences in others
- Describe the physical changes that occur at puberty (e.g., growth of body hair, breast development, changes in voice and body size, production of body odour, skin changes) and the emotional and social impacts that may result from these changes
- Demonstrate an understanding of personal care needs and the application of personal hygienic practices associated with the onset of puberty (e.g., increased importance of regular bathing/showering and regular clothing changes; use of hygiene products; continuing importance of regular hygiene practices, including hand washing, oral health care, and care of prosthetic devices and residual limbs)
- Identify the parts of the reproductive system, and describe how the body changes during puberty
- Describe the processes of menstruation and spermatogenesis, and explain how these processes relate to reproduction and overall development
- Identify intersecting factors that affect the development of a person’s self-concept, including their sexual orientation (e.g., self-awareness, self-acceptance, social environment, opinions of others who are important to them, influence of stereotypical thinking, awareness of their own strengths and needs, social competency, cultural identity, availability of support, body image, mental health and emotional well-being, physical abilities), and how these factors can support their personal health and well-being
- Describe emotional and interpersonal stresses related to puberty (e.g., questions about changing bodies and feelings, adjusting to changing relationships, crushes and more intense feelings, conflicts between personal desires and cultural teachings and practices), recognize signs that could indicate mental health concerns, and identify strategies that they can apply to manage stress, build resilience, keep open communication with family members and caring adults, and enhance their mental health and emotional well-being (e.g., being active, writing feelings in a journal, accessing information about their concerns, taking action on a concern, talking to a trusted peer or adult, breathing deeply, meditating, seeking cultural advice from Elders, Métis Senators, knowledge keepers or knowledge holders)
- Demonstrate an understanding of the impacts of viewing sexually explicit media, including pornography (e.g., leads to a limited or distorted understanding of relationships; reinforces harmful gender norms; promotes an unrealistic or idealized body image)
- Describe how they can build confidence and lay a foundation for healthy relationships by acquiring a clearer understanding of the physical, social, and emotional changes that occur during adolescence (e.g., physical: voice changes, skin changes, body growth; social: changing social relationships, increasing influence of peers; emotional: increased intensity of feelings, new interest in relationships, confusion and questions about changes)
- Make informed decisions that demonstrate respect for themselves and others and an understanding of the concept of consent to help build healthier relationships, using a variety of social-emotional learning skills (e.g., self-awareness and identity skills; emotion management skills; critical and creative thinking skills; skills based on First Nations, Métis, and Inuit cultural teachings, such as medicine wheel teachings connected to the life cycle, the seven-grandfather teachings, or other cultural teachings)
- Assess the effects of stereotypes and assumptions regarding gender roles and expectations, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, culture, mental health, and abilities on an individual’s self-concept, social inclusion, and relationships with others, and propose appropriate ways of responding to and changing harmful assumptions and stereotypes that can lead to destructive social attitudes including homophobia and racism
- Explain the importance of having a shared understanding with a partner about the following: delaying sexual activity until they are older (e.g., choosing to abstain from any genital contact; choosing to abstain from vaginal or anal intercourse; choosing to abstain from oral-genital contact); the reasons for not engaging in sexual activity; the concept of consent, the legal age of consent, and how consent is communicated; and, in general, the need to communicate clearly with each other when making decisions about sexual activity in a healthy, loving relationship
- Identify sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs), and describe their symptoms
- Identify ways of preventing STBBIs and/or unplanned pregnancy, such as delaying first intercourse and other sexual activities until a person is older and using condoms and other forms of protection consistently
- Demonstrate an understanding of physical, emotional, social, and cognitive factors that need to be considered when making decisions related to sexual health (e.g., sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections [STBBIs], possible side effects of contraceptives, pregnancy, protective value of vaccinations, social labelling, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, self-concept issues, relationships, love, respect, desire, pleasure, cultural teachings)
- Explain how relationships with others (e.g., family, peers) and sexual health may be affected by the physical and emotional changes associated with puberty (e.g., effect of physical maturation and emotional changes on family relationships; effect of growing interest in intimate relationships on peer relationships; increased risk of STBBIs and/or pregnancy with onset of sexual activity)
- Identify and explain factors that can affect an individual’s decisions about sexual activity (e.g., previous thinking about reasons to wait, including making a choice to delay sexual activity and establishing personal limits; perceived personal readiness; peer pressure; desire; curiosity; self-concept; awareness and acceptance of gender identity and sexual orientation; physical or cognitive disabilities and possible associated assumptions; legal concerns such as the legal age of consent; awareness of the risk of sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections [STBBIs]; concerns about the risk of becoming a parent; use of alcohol or drugs; personal or family values; religious beliefs; cultural teachings; access to information; media messages), and identify sources of support regarding sexual health (e.g., a health professional [doctor, nurse, public health practitioner], a teacher, a guidance counsellor, a religious leader, a parent or other trusted adult, a reputable website)
- Demonstrate an understanding of gender identity (e.g., male, female, Two-Spirit, transgender), gender expression, and sexual orientation (e.g., heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual), and identify factors that can help individuals of all identities and orientations develop a positive self-concept
- Demonstrate an understanding of abstinence, contraception and the use of effective and suitable protection to prevent pregnancy and STBBIs, and the concept of consent, as well as the skills (e.g., self-awareness, communication, assertiveness, and refusal skills) they need to apply in order to make safe and healthy decisions about sexual activity (e.g., delaying first intercourse; establishing, discussing, and respecting boundaries; showing respect; opting to seek additional information and support; having safer sex)
- Analyse the attractions and benefits associated with being in a healthy relationship (e.g., support, understanding, camaraderie, pleasure), as well as the benefits, risks, and drawbacks, for themselves and others, of relationships involving different degrees of sexual intimacy (e.g., hurt when relationships end or trust is broken; in more sexually intimate relationships, risk of STBBIs and related risk to future fertility, becoming a parent before you are ready, sexual harassment and exploitation; potential for dating violence
Human Development and Sexual Health: Frequently Asked Questions
Can parents request detailed information about what is actually being taught before requesting an exemption?
Yes, please contact your child’s classroom teacher. They will send a letter home with the exact expectations that will be taught, but if you are interested in learning more, please contact the teacher.
In many cases, health is taught by PE teacher or prep coverage.
Where are teachers getting their lessons from? Who created the original lessons?
The HWDSB recommends that educators use resources from the Ontario Physical and Health Educators Association (OPHEA), Media Smarts and PHE Canada.
Is there an option if we only want our child to be exempt from the sexual health portion of the curriculum?
Exemptions would be for Human Development and Sexual Health learning within Strand D of the curriculum.
Will the HPE Curriculum be expected to be taught during remote learning?
Yes, we plan to deliver the learning in May and June if we are in remote.
Which activity or activities are discussed with respect to delayed sexual activity?
In grade 7, there is learning about delaying sexual activity. The underlying message is about abstinence and ensuring that sexual activity is consensual.
Do education guidelines ask the kids to use “special” terminology instead of using usual words like “woman” and “man”?
The educators are following the curriculum document and the terminology within the document. There are no special terms for woman and man that are to explicitly taught.
Man and woman were not used, and neither are male and female it is people with vaginas, people with penises (grade 5).
How will my child be notified that he/she is exempted from the lesson? In the case of exemption Will he/she be automatically not enrolled to this curriculum?
Once an exemption form is filed with the school through Parent Portal, paper copy, or phone call – educators will receive the names of students who will not be participating.
With regards to an exemption from sexual health and development, why has there been a change to an all or nothing approach when before the other health topics could still be taught?
We are following Ministry direction in providing the exemption. Please note that the exemption is for the Human Development/Sexual Health learning in Strand D only.
Is there a deadline for the exemption? Would parents be able to pull their children out of learning if child is unable to cope all the information?
Exemptions are requested 5 days before the lesson. If you feel you would like an exemption after the material has begun, please connect with your child’s school to initiate the process.
How will my child be notified that they are exempted from the lesson? In the case of exemption, will they be automatically not enrolled to this curriculum?
If you request an exemption, your child will be provided alternative learning, either in the class or elsewhere in the school (within public health measures).
Will the kids be learning these things together as a group or will they be separated by gender?
This will be different at each school, potentially. Please contact your child’s teacher to understand how the material will be taught.
Will parents who have exempted their children from this strand be made aware of the We all Count Survey that asks Sexual Orientation, gender, etc with detailed definitions (in the Grade 5-12) survey?
The exemption from HPE does not apply to the We All Count Survey.
Who is responsible for the 'alternative learning' for those who decide to opt out of the HPE learning?
The classroom teacher will provide the alternative learning.
We have specific religious beliefs concerning some of these issues, what happens if my child brings these beliefs up and they don't coincide with what is being taught?
We strive for safe, inclusive, and respectful learning environments. If this is a concern, please speak to your child’s teacher to make them aware.