Teaching & Learning Update

Body-Image Curriculum Crafted to Help Middle School Girls

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Looks matter, and it’s unrealistic to pretend otherwise, say the crafters of a new curriculum that focuses on improving the body image of girls in middle school.

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But, according to Catherine Steiner-Adair and Lisa Sjostrom, who produced Full of Ourselves: A Wellness Program to Advance Girl Power, Health, and Leadership, many other things matter more, such as promoting positive values, strength, and assertiveness.

It’s a dose of realism coupled with self-empowerment that makes their curriculum stand out, say the authors, who piloted it among more than 800 girls in 32 public and private schools.

The goal of the curriculum is not to ignore media messages about appearance, but to learn “how to deconstruct the message,” said Ms. Steiner-Adair, the director of the eating-disorders education and prevention program at McLean Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Belmont, Mass., affiliated with Harvard University’s medical school.

One of the most important parts of the program, the authors say, is that the middle school students are supposed to take what they’ve learned and put it into practice by devising a curriculum for younger girls.

“That’s what we found was really effective in creating positive change,” said Ms. Sjostrom, the director of Helping Kids Thrive, an educational consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass.

Vol. 25, Issue 44, Page 14

Published in Print: August 9, 2006, as Body-Image Curriculum Crafted to Help Middle School Girls
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