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Informed, equipped and empowered

Puberty lessons the order of the day for Sadie Curtis Primary School upper grade students
  • Cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon Dr. Duane Sands was one of two male health professionals who engaged the male students in frank conversation.

  • Sadie Curtis Primary School upper grade girls were separated from their male counterparts and given lessons on what’s happening to their bodies, at a recent symposium to help them understand the changes taking place within them as they hit puberty. Female nurses addressed the topics of menstrual cycles and how to plot when they will have a cycle, sex and STIs, pregnancy and hygiene. PHOTOS: KATHERINE BENEBY

Guardian Lifestyles Editor

Published: Apr 10, 2017

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Sadie Curtis Primary School upper grade students have been informed and empowered on what’s happening to their bodies as they hit puberty and prepare to move on to the next phase of their educational journeys at the junior school level.

Katherine Beneby, Sadie Curtis upper school guidance counselor and symposium coordinator said her aim was to get male and female fourth through sixth grade students in touch with the changes that are taking place in their bodies; and to make them knowledgeable about the issues, so that they’re not caught unaware.

Hygiene, puberty, bullying and safety were topics addressed during the symposium at the school on Charles W. Saunders Highway. The symposium was held Wednesday, March 29 under the theme “What’s Happening To Me?”

“I find that a lot of parents find it difficult to talk to their children one-on-one to tell them what to expect. And, as a guidance counselor, my aim was to make sure that I inform them so that they could know that when things happen to them it wouldn’t be a shock. They would know what’s going on and what to expect because they’re growing up,” said Beneby.

For the most part, the issues that were addressed included the changes that take place in young men’s and women’s bodies. No topic was off limit.

Presenters included cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon Dr. Duane Sands; nurses Joy Tucker, Barsha Smith, Charlene Sealy, Rochelle Symonette and Chesmond Finley; and law enforcement officers Laura Stuart and Audley Peters.

The sixth grade boys and girls were separated for their lessons and conversations with their adult counterparts to allow for free conversation and honest answers.

“I did it like that to allow the young men the opportunity to be able to ask the questions they needed to ask and not be afraid,” said Beneby.

In the years Beneby has staged the symposium for her upper primary school students, she said this was the first year she had male professionals speak to her male students.

The male group addressed topics including masturbation, circumcision, ‘wet dreams’, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), pregnancy and hygiene.

From reports given to her by the male presenters, Beneby said the male students left feeling empowered.

“This is the first time I’ve been able to get males to speak to my male students. In the past it’s always been a female nurse. So it was a big thing for me to get Dr. Duane Sands and male nurse Chesmond Finley,” she said. “They had a male to tell them how a ‘wet dream’ feels. As females, you can only say what the book says. So they had one-on-one, male-to-male. They said it was empowering, enlightening and they learned so much. This made me feel good, because this was my goal for years.

Female nurses addressed the female students on menstrual cycles, sex and STIs, pregnancy and hygiene as well.

“Some of the young women are already seeing their period. I come from senior high where a lot of them not knowing when their cycle is coming on, have accidents, and you see it, so my thing was to show them how to plot their cycle so they would know when it’s coming on and properly prepare themselves so they wouldn’t have accidents in school,” said Beneby.

Beneby said her main thrust was to get her students in touch with what is going on in their bodies.

“I wanted a lot of focus on it, because they’re leaving me and going to junior high, and I wanted them to know so that they can make good decisions. They can’t say they don’t know the information or didn’t hear the information. My whole thing was to inform, empower and equip them so they can make sensible choices when they are faced with situations.”

School nurse Rochelle Symonette spoke to the fifth grade girls about growing up and puberty as well as what they were to expect with changes in their bodies and their menstrual cycles, without going into as much detail as the graduating class.

The practice of hygiene, including cleanliness of the body, hands and teeth was addressed for the fourth grade students, who weren’t separated.

Bullying and aggressive behavior were addressed across the three grade levels. The students were discouraged from making threats and spreading rumors.

Beneby said over the years she has come to the realization that, when children are armed with the right information on what their bodies are going through, it translates very well into the classroom.

“If a young lady’s cycle begins for the first time while she’s in school, because of the knowledge, it wouldn’t unravel her day. She knows about it. She knows it can come on anytime, and so it would be settling to her to know that this is just a change in her body. She won’t panic wondering what is happening to her or what is going on with her or whether she’s sick. Knowledge is power, and this is why every year I try to do a male-female symposium.

Urban Renewal officers addressed the topics of bullying and safety for the sixth grade students, focusing on safety at home, school and in their neighborhoods.

The students were told that threatening to physically assault, verbally abuse or even attack someone on the Internet, and spreading rumors is never good.

The students were also informed that, at the junior school level, the culture changes and physical touching must be limited. They were taught to be careful where they touch another person and that there is good touching and bad touching.

“I just wanted to give the information, because knowledge is power,” said the guidance counselor. “And this is our little way of helping our students and at the same time trying to make a difference,” she said.


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