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English 212

2002 Third Paper

On Serendip


Chelsea Phillips

The praxis placement we chose involves giving presentations. The presentations last between 45 minutes and an hour and a half; in this time there is room for an activity, a discussion, and a question and answer session. The question and answer session can be done in a casual way, or it may be done anonymously, depending on the climate of the group. Training has included the best ways to answer difficult questions, such as questions about abortion, gay/lesbian/bi/transgender issues, and difficult inquiries about relationships.

Our sessions are on Tuesday nights from 5:00 to 5:45 at a public school in South Philly. We are working with an after school program with kids ages 10-14 with approximately 8-12 kids per session. It is a coed group with a slightly larger boy to girl ratio. At this point in the school year, there are very few rooms for use after school, so we conduct our sessions on the stage in the auditorium. We sit together on the ground in a circle and their teacher, who we'll call KM, observes to help monitor behavior. One of the positive aspects of our education program is that we are required to have a school official with us at all times to deal with behavior problems so that we may concentrate on divulging our information. To each of the sessions, we bring the materials needed for that day's activity, such as markers, newsprint, cards, tape, and pamphlets.

We went to the school for our first session on Tuesday, October 29. After a little trouble finding the entrance, we were let in by a student and lead to meet KM and her class. It took some time to get started, as we had to move to the auditorium from the computer classroom, to make way for a different class. It was interesting that once KM was in the hall, she divided the boys and girls into two separate lines to walk down the hall, and once at the auditorium, instructed the boys to enter first, followed by the girls. Throughout the entire moving process, KM kept strict and disciplined control, talking sternly to the kids when they were rowdy and asking them to be mature and focused.

Once on the stage, behind the curtain, we took some time to establish ground rules with the kids, emphasizing that they decide on the rules themselves. One of the biggest guidelines we stressed was respect and tolerance during the discussions. We wrote them all down on newsprint and taped them up so all could see during each session. Next, we outlined what we were going to discuss, which was, in this occasion, puberty. We then passed out cards listing various changes the body goes through during puberty (i.e., voice changes, grow taller, menstruation starts, etc.). Then, three cards were laid out, saying "Girls Only", "Boys Only" and "Both", dictating the three categories into which the kids could place their cards. Each child read out their card and placed in wherever they thought it should go, and then we discussed their choice. The kids had some really interesting ideas.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect about this session was the observation that the boys were more mature than the girls when it came to talking about these issues. The two eldest girls, in particular, would burst into fits of giggles and tease the boys when they used medical terms for body parts, functions, etc. We were also surprised at the general extent of the knowledge in the group. Such as there knowledge of the reproductive system in men and women; one boy in particular, knew that the beginning of menstruation in girls signals that they have two mature ovaries. Another surprise was the na´vetÚ of the some of the children regarding their own bodies, such as a young man who was, after being told that an erection is a rushing of blood to the penis, confused as to where the blood goes afterwards. After wrapping up the activity, we had a question and answer session.

The topics we will be covering in the next five weeks are male and female anatomy, sex abuse prevention, STIs and teen pregnancy, reproduction and STI prevention and a wrap-up session. As volunteer educators, this is an incredible opportunity, as most volunteers do what are called "one-shot deals" as opposed to extended programs. Though the "one-shots" reach a great number of children, we feel that an expanded program such as this has a more lasting effect on, sadly, a fewer number of children. The remainder of the sessions will follow the same basic pattern that the first session did, with an activity, discussion, and question and answer session included in each one. Before the sessions, we will take time to prepare our lesson and week's activity.

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