Middle School Health Curriculum

Sixth Grade Health Curriculum

The following is an abbreviated review of the curriculum taught in the sixth grade health course at both Van Antwerp and Iroquois Middle Schools in Niskayuna Central Schools. The Health Advisory Committee and the Health Department continually reviews the Health Education curriculum. The curriculum is based on the intermediate health standards for the middle school students in Niskayuna. Please contact Larry Gillooley, Director of Health Education, if you have any questions or concerns regarding the curriculum.


During the introductory period of each ten-week health class at the sixth grade level, students are introduced to the topic of health education at the middle school and topics they study. A letter is sent home with each student stating that his or her child is starting Health class and includes teacher contact information for parents/guardians. Students are also given instruction on appropriate class conduct and how to deal with any concerns they may have over materials that are presented.

Emotional Health

Early adolescence can be an exciting and challenging time mentally, socially and physically. Many sixth graders yearn for their childhood, yet feel excited to be growing up and maturing. During this unit, students discuss some of the feelings they may have during this stage. The students examine some positive and negative ways that teenagers deal with their emotions and how their emotional health can affect the choices they make in their lives. Students receive instruction on some of the warning signals that may indicate that someone they know is having a difficult time emotionally. Many different topics are covered during this topic depending on current issues. Several activities in this unit have been designed to help sixth grade students seek out appropriate and trustworthy resources to help them deal with emotional concerns that they may encounter.


During the years of adolescence many teenagers’ diets leave a lot to be desired. During this unit sixth grade students examine the nutritional needs of developing adolescents. The students are asked to examine how these needs can be met through developing healthful eating habits. The students also examine some of the factors that affect their food choices and allows evaluate their own eating habits. Students explore the nutritional concepts and learn how to apply skills in their own life that can contribute toward their overall well-being. Students are encouraged to seek help from parents, teachers, or counselors if they are concerned with these issues or in need of more information. Several activities have been incorporated into this unit to help students learn how to make proper decisions regarding food safety and sanitation.

Tobacco, Alcohol and Other Drugs

“Project Alert” is the foundation for substance abuse prevention in the sixth grade. This nationally validated program has been identified to reduce tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use among teens. As described during the 7th grade booster lessons, this skills-based curriculum is geared toward helping students learn proper skills associated with decision-making and self management that will help them make healthy decisions throughout their lives. Statistics show that many teenagers begin to experiment with substances sometime during their middle school years. This unit is designed to help sixth grade students make clear and educated decisions regarding the use of drugs. Students first examine some of the reasons individuals’ use, misuse, and abuse tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. They explore the adverse short and long term affects of drug use. Students examine the personal reasons why they would like to remain drug free. Several activities have been designed to allow students to develop skills to resist the internal and external pressure to use drugs. The students explore a number of healthy alternatives to using tobacco, alcohol and other drugs; they examine how choosing positive personal health habits can help to reduce the risk of using drugs. Lastly, students will be reminded of resources that they have previously identified to help answer and questions or concerns they may have about these substances.

Family Life

At the beginning of this unit students examine the role of the family and the different types of families in our society. The students explore how families help to shape values and attitudes. As children age, the role of the family in their lives changes. The students discuss how their relationship with the individuals in their families are changing and maturing. Students also examine some physical, mental and social issues that adolescents may deal with. The students review material on the make and female reproductive systems and discuss the changes that occur in males and females as a result of puberty. Students watch the video: ‘What Kids Want to Know about Sex and Growing Up’. (This video was selected through a rigorous review process with parents, community members, clergy, administrators, teachers, students and the Niskayuna Health Advisory Committee. The video was approved for use by the Board of Education.) The major emphasis in this unit is for students to seek reliable and trustworthy resources to find answers to questions that they may have regarding the changes they are going through. Among the sources they students are encouraged to go to are their parents, their physicians, their religious education program, nurses and educators. Sexual harassment is also addressed with the emphasis on prevention and refusal skills. Parents who wish to wish to have their child removed from this portion of the curriculum should contact the Assistant Superintendent of Schools for Educational Programs and Instruction.

Diseases and Disorders

In this unit the discussion of diseases and disorders continues from their previous education levels. Basic concepts and skills are presented and reinforced to develop ways to prevent of control diseases. The students examine how personal health behaviors can increase or decrease an individual’s risk for acquiring a disease. Students learn how to seek appropriate support when disease impact individuals in their lives. During the last part of this unit sixth graders continue their learning on the subject of HIV/AIDS. Students learn about the nature of the disease, the methods of transmission, and methods of prevention. Parents are permitted to opt their child out of the “Methods of Prevention” portion of the HIV/AIDS Curriculum in accord with the Commissioner’s Regulations. Parents who wish to wish to have their child removed from this portion of the curriculum should contact the Assistant Superintendent of Schools for Educational Programs and Instruction.

Project Alert Booster Lessons for 7th grade advocacies

The middle school health teachers provide booster lessons for project alert during seventh grade advocacies. Middle school students are a group vulnerable to social influences but not yet heavy users of alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, or other drugs. The goal of project alert is to reduce the use of those dangerous substances by keeping nonusers from trying them and by preventing nonusers and experimenters from becoming regular users. The curriculum offers a number of ways to increase resistance self-efficacy, including modeling, practice, and feedback.

Overview of Eighth Grade Health Curriculum

The following is an abbreviated review of the curriculum taught in the eighth grade health course at both Van Antwerp and Iroquois Middle Schools in Niskayuna. The curriculum is based on the intermediate National and NYS health education standards for middle school students as well as the skills in the NYS Guidance Document for health education.

During the introductory period of each ten-week class at the eighth grade level, students are made aware of the teenage health problems existing in the United States. Each student works through an individual health survey to assess their current health trends and what needs exist for improvement in their own health habits. Students then plan ways to make those changes that are deemed necessary to live a healthy lifestyle.

There will be a number of guest speakers who come in to talk to the students about bullying, suicide, stress and depression. Visibility is one the high school clubs that come in to address the issues of bullying in schools.

Visibility is Niskayuna High School’s GLBT alliance. Visibility’s goal is to create an environment at Niskayuna High School in which every member of the school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Visibility hopes that its existence will contribute to the safety and well-being of all students.

Our school counselors Kevin McFerran and Meghan Williams also come into 8th grade health to cover stress, suicide, and depression. They cover the warning signs of depression and suicide and who to reach out to if anyone is in need of help.

Emotional Health

Many adolescents report that eighth grade can be a very difficult year emotionally. Students at this age are in the midst of puberty, they are beginning to have concerns about high school and their future. In general, eighth grade students are dealing with more mature, complex problems. This unit discusses some of the issues that adolescents face emotionally. Students are encouraged to seek out healthy ways to deal with their feelings. In this unit they explore how one’s self-concept affects health choices and behaviors. Students acquire a better understanding of how stress affects them, and they learn healthy, productive ways to manage the stress in their lives.

Diseases and Disorders

This unit students review how communicable and non-communicable disease develop. They gain a more complex understanding of how the immune system works in healthy and unhealthy individuals. The students examine how choosing positive personal health behaviors can help minimize their risk of acquiring a preventable disease.

Tobacco, Alcohol, and Other Drugs

In this unit students review the reasons that teens use, misuse, and abuse drugs. Students learn about the short and long term affects of chemical substances. Activities in this unit help students to review and develop new resistance skills to help them remain drug free. The students examine the connection between positive personal health choices and the non-use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs as well as the risks and consequences of use. Students are encouraged to develop healthy alternatives to drug use. Other topics of discussion include drinking/drugging and driving, tobacco and alcohol advertising, and binge drinking.

Family Life Education

At the start of this unit, eighth grade students examine the role of the family shaping attitudes and values. They learn about different types of family structures and look toward the future to the type of family they wish to have. Many eighth graders are well into puberty by the time they come to eighth grade health class; therefore, it is important to review male and female reproductive systems and the physical, mental, and social changes that occur during puberty. Students examine the physical and emotional risks of early sexual activity. Birth control methods are briefly discussed. Students learn how they work and how they may fail. Students learn how early sexual involvement can trigger emotional concerns during adolescence, and later in life. Students learn how sexually transmitted diseases are transmitted, treated, and can be prevented. Abstinence from sexual intercourse is presented as the safest and most healthy alternative for students. Students are provided instruction on skills to prevent Sexual Harassment and Sexual Abuse. Parents may choose to have their child opt out of the Family Life Unit by filing a form with the Assistant Superintendent for Educational Programs and Instruction.

During the last portion of this unit, students update knowledge about HIV/AIDS from the sixth grade health class. Students review the nature of the disease, the methods of transmission, and the methods of prevention. This unit also includes a lesson on condom use. The Health Advisory Committee and the Board of Education have approved this lesson.

Parents are permitted to opt their child out of the “Methods of Prevention” portions of the HIV/AIDS Curriculum in accord with Commissioner’s Regulations. Parents who wish to have their child removed from this portion of the curriculum should contact the Assistant Superintendent of Schools for Educational Programs and Instruction.

 “In the Womb” Video

The National Geographic video In the Womb will be shown during this unit. From the moment of conception, every human embryo embarks on an incredible nine month journey of development. Now, cutting-edge technology makes it possible for National Geographic’s In the Womb to open a window into the hidden world of the fetus and explore each trimester in amazing new detail. Revolutionary imagery sheds light on the delicate, dark world of a fetus as never before.

This movie is actually a combination of 4-dimensional real-time sonograms and re-created “animation” of a fetus developing. Not a cartoon animation, but a re-creation of a baby in an actual womb. With both, the fetus is actually moving around and shown exactly as it develops and moves. There is about 5 minutes of 4D sonogram footage and the rest is re-creation footage.
As part of the biology and life science unit, this movie was very appropriate and fits in well with the biology books and materials. A new tidbit that students learn is that sperm can actually smell the egg, which helps them to find it. They usually giggle over that part, which was entirely new to them.
There is only about 5 minutes devoted to actual childbirth and only one quick view of the baby’s head and shoulders being born.

Safety and First Aid

Many eighth grade students report that their families are giving them more responsibilities and independence. Part of this increased responsibility involves being left alone and possibly taking part in the care of younger siblings. Many eighth grade students are also becoming interested in baby-sitting. For these reasons, the Safety and First Aid Unit was selected as a part of the eighth grade curriculum. They learn the basic principles of safety and first aid. Students analyze safety hazards that are environmental and those that are caused by people. Activities have been designed to allow students to assess their own safety behaviors and practices.