By Suzanne Schrag | March 22, 2018
Editor/Project Manager, ETR
Here’s a different take on a familiar saying: Those who can, do. Those who really can, teach! And those who teach health know the value of teaching advocacy skills.
Giving students practice in advocacy is a great way to build engagement, review key concepts and personalize what they’ve been learning about healthy behaviors. Advocacy also helps communities hear vital information about health-related issues from critical stakeholders—young people themselves!
We are offering a series of blog posts about the ways HealthSmart addresses the seven key skills for health literacy addressed in the National Health Education Standards. Other posts in this series:
We know that a focus on skills-based health education is the best way to help young people establish healthy behaviors and reduce their health risks. The National Health Education Standards (NHES) outline performance indicators for seven critical health skills. The skill of advocacy offers great opportunities for students to integrate and apply what they’ve been learning so they can help others.
In addition to outlining performance indicators for comprehending concepts, the National Health Education Standards (NHES) also set performance criteria for these seven critical health skills:
The Standards offer guidance through the performance indicators outlined for the skills at each grade span. As students grow in knowledge, capacity and independence, what it means to practice a particular health skill also evolves. So what does advocacy look like in kindergarten? at grade 3? in middle school or high school? Let’s see what the Standards suggest.
In Grades pre-K though 2, there are two NHES performance indicators for the skill of advocacy: (1) make requests to promote personal health, and (2) encourage peers to make positive health choices. At this youngest level, perhaps the most important people for whom children can advocate are themselves! Knowing how to ask others to support them in practicing healthy behaviors is a critical first step. Once they can do that, they can extend their efforts to help their peers behave in ways that support health too.
At Grades 3, 4 and 5, students also learn to encourage others to make positive health choices, but they are now expected to be able to support their advocacy efforts by stating valid opinions supported by accurate information about various health issues.
In middle school, the Standards expand the performance indicators for the skill of advocacy further still, by adding a cooperative component and the ability to tailor a message for a particular audience. Students in Grades 6–8 are expected to:
The advocacy performance indicators for high school (Grades 9–12) are similar, with the added idea of using peer and societal norms to reinforce and support the health-enhancing message.
Here’s how ETR’s HealthSmart program teaches and provides practice in the skill of advocacy. The questions that guide the practice of the skill increase in sophistication as students move through the grades.
For example, in the Grade 1 Safety and Injury Prevention lessons, students learn these simple steps to help others make safety smart choices:
At the upper elementary grades, students learn how to “take a stand” on a variety of important health issues. A similar set of steps helps them understand what taking a stand means:
The idea of taking a stand can be used across many different health content areas. For example, in Grade 3, students follow these steps to help their friends avoid germs and stay healthy. In Grade 4 they encourage peers to be tobacco and alcohol free. In Grade 5 they take a stand against bullying, cyberbullying and fighting.
At the middle and high school levels, a range of advocacy techniques and projects are introduced. Students frequently work with partners or in small groups to design and present their advocacy messages. The steps for the process add more sophistication and often include tailoring the message to reach a particular group of peers.
For example, a middle school Injury Prevention lesson on safety gear teaches students the following steps in the advocacy process:
At high school, there is an additional emphasis on working together as advocates, with steps such as the following:
Students practice their advocacy across a wide range of topics, frequently as a way to review and reinforce the learning from earlier lessons. Advocacy activities at these upper grade levels include:
At each of these grade levels, students are able to practice an advocacy skills process that makes sense developmentally and helps them meet the objectives from the National Health Education Standards.
If you’re intrigued and would like to learn more about ETR’s comprehensive, skills-based, standards-aligned K–12 health education program, visit the HealthSmart website. You can also email or call ETR at 1-888-220-9455 to set up review access to the digital edition of the program.
Suzanne Schrag is the series editor of the second edition of the HealthSmart program, and a co-author of the newly revised K–5 grade levels. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.