Sexual Health Education by Saleema Noon at Southlands Elementary School

Saleema Noon talking to parents at Southlands Elementary on Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Saleema Noon talking to parents at Southlands Elementary on Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Don’t be surprised when your first-grader comes home this Thursday naming private parts, and saying that from now on, she needs no more supervising with washing, because “no one is allowed to touch my body.”

It’s most likely she has attended Saleema Noon’s sexual health education classes, which occur annually in Southlands Elementary School.

On Tuesday evening, parents had the opportunity to meet Noon, and learn what exactly she will be teaching students and how to answer the questions that will come up after classes.

sexual health education adapted to students’ maturity levels

Saleema Noon uses humour and interactive games to overcome kids' uneasiness with the subject.

Saleema Noon uses humour and interactive games to overcome kids’ uneasiness with the subject.

“Primaries still think I’m a rock star,” said Noon, an expert with a degree in sexual health education from UBC. Noon, stepmother of two teenagers, enjoys working with kindergartners and first-graders, she said, because for kids of that age, sexual education is pure body science.

“The good news is, you can’t tell a child too much,” said Noon. Young kids will only absorb what they need to know about body parts and how babies are made. Your child will tune out if it hears things it isn’t ripe for.

However, we need to stay one step ahead as parents, she said, because sex is in our kids’ faces 24/7. “If we don’t teach our kids, someone is going to do it for us,” she said.

sex-educated kids may deter abusers 

Giving children a scientific vocabulary is important to protect them from abuse, said Noon, who referred to scientists working with sexual perpetrators. The perp will often look for a vulnerable child that doesn’t understand what is going on and doesn’t have the vocabulary to express the abuse.

Noon explained there are three sorts of private parts on our bodies; mouth, breast and genitals. Children who are worried when touched in these areas are encouraged to report this to an adult they trust, or even to a help phone line.

While kindergartners and first-graders are keen on the scientific details, second and third-graders are more gender-aware and giggly, said Noon, while fourth and fifth-graders are more embarrassed and “on the verge of barfing.”

Puberty brainstorm covers physical and emotional changes

These menstrual pads made of cloth, as well as a menstrual cup were new to most parents.

These menstrual pads made of cloth, as well as a menstrual cup were new to most parents.

The older kids do a “puberty brainstorm” about basic hygiene, pregnancy and diseases. The course also covers menstruation and wet dreams, both of which can start as early as age 8 or 9 these days, though the average age is 12 to 13, said Noon.

Noon will show samples of menstrual pads, including organic cloth ones, which were unknown to most parents in the audience.

“Boys are happy they don’t need to wear tampons,” Noon said, who added it might be best to address wet dreams en passant, while washing up or working out. Boys are often more comfortable talking about these things without eye contact, she said.

The older boys are being taught how to conduct a weekly testicular exam, in order to detect unusual bumps. “Testicle Tuesday” is an easy reminder for most boys with a busy activity schedule, said Noon.

Breast exams are not recommended yet for elementary students, since hormonal growth bumps are not unusual and may come and go.

Sexting worrisome for kids and teens

So what do the kids want to know most? Interestingly, they are worried about “sexting,” said Noon. Sexting is the act of exchanging sexually explicit texts or photographs via mobile phones or social media platforms. An astonishing 80 per cent of kids, mainly boys, are watching pornography on the internet, she said, and generally, sex is all around us in the media. The numbers come from the CBC documentary Sext Up Kids.

Noon teaches kids why sexting is a bad idea, because it turns the ideal of total privacy topsy-turvy. She also noticed that students often use sexual language, but have no idea what the words actually stand for. As an example, she referred to some boys, who were recently talking about “69’ing” their victims, without knowing what it meant.

If you want to know what the words your children use actually mean, go to an online slang dictionary like, said Noon.

Most importantly, Noon teaches all kids to avoid homophobic and sexist language, and that all families (single parent, blended, divorced, gay, adoptive) are deserving of respect.

sexual education successful in B.C.

A selection of sexual education books.

A selection of sexual education books.

Is sexual education working? According to Noon, it is. The age of first vaginal intercourse is actually increasing in B.C., she said, to almost 18 years of age, higher than in neighbouring U.S. states. This data corresponds with the British Columbia Adolescent Health Survey by the McCreary Centre Society from 2009 (p.39).

Most of this success she relates to Meg Hickling, a sex education pioneer, who wrote Meg Hickling’s Grown-Up Sex, which is part of the resource list Noon has available. Another book I discovered on the list was Peter Mayle’s Where Did I Come From, which I remember reading as a child in the 1970s and 80s. It is still perfectly valuable, said Noon, so it might be time now to check out your parents’ library and introduce your kids to the world of sexual education.

Report and photos by Katja De Bock

What do you think about sexual health education in the class room?

How does your child’s sexual education compare to yours as a teenager?

What could we improve in B.C. to assure sexual health of our children?

I am looking forward to reading your comments – please use the reply box below!


3 thoughts on “Sexual Health Education by Saleema Noon at Southlands Elementary School

  1. Great post Katja! I think sex ed in the classroom is very important for kids and teens to understand what’s going on and why. It’s certainly better to have an expert talk to them about these topics then their parents who might beat around the bush or leave things out. Throughout elementary, middle and high school I never had a proper sex ed talk because I had teachers who didn’t know how to bring the topic up or be able to discuss it. Having someone like Saleema come into the school is very important.

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