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Four Years of Health Class?
Seth Thayumanavan '20 Associate Editor
January 30, 2019

In December, the Curriculum Committee met to discuss a complete overturn of the health issues program at DA. The proposal would change the class from one term to a more comprehensive program taking place across all four years. This initiative is part of a greater push to continue supporting health and wellness at Deerfield, which is also exemplified in the current construction of a health center.

“I came in with the expectation that we would be expanding the health curriculum.” said Health Teacher Margaret Brown, who joined the school as a faculty member this year. “There have been conversations about making the health program more comprehensive for years.”

Credit: Mark Chung

Compared to other schools, Deerfield requires relatively little from its students in terms of health issue requirements. Milton Academy, for example, requires its students to meet once a week every term for all four years, and even has health electives. Moreover, Exeter and NMH both adopted health curricula that require two years of classes.

The proposed program at Deerfield would take a new approach, concentrating first on the needs of ninth graders. According to Dr. Brown, “Ninth graders need help learning to study and guidance developing relationships.” The current program takes place in either tenth or eleventh grade.

The new program would require students to take health class for two periods a week, all year in ninth grade. It would also require sophomores to complete one term of classes, meeting two days a week, with new sophomores taking the class three times a week instead. Finally, it would focus on providing seniors information as they transfer to college, providing three one-hour informational session and also providing health electives.

Dr. Brown also advocated to the Curriculum Committee that new program would have many advantages.

Amongst other things, it provides a forum to discuss health-related issues and, according to Dr. Brown, the class may be changed from a one term class, to a class every term should strengthen their decision-making, relationships, and knowledge about health at the Academy. Moreover, the health department hopes that the revamped program, in the long run, will produce better-educated students, which would subsequently create a better, healthier community.

Naturally, the program also carries several implications. The obvious issue facing the community is how it will affect students’ schedules, considering the shift from a one term class to a four year class.

Some students, such as David Chen ’20, are worried about the new program, claiming the time commitment outweighs the benefits.

Chen stated, “Even If a longer health course was a good idea, it is unreasonable to go from a one term course to a full four years.” time commitment is an issue that Dr. Brown and the other community members have and continue to wrestle with as they prepare to integrate the initiative.

Despite this, Dr. Brown is confident that extending the class would not actually be such a big issue. She stated that “We [the school] are working hard to make sure that this doesn’t feel additive to the student schedule.”

The increased number of health classes would likely require another health teacher, to help take some of the workload off of Dr. Brown and Ms. Heather Wakeman, the current health teachers. Apart from that, Dr. Brown doesn’t really see any disadvantages to the program that could truly outweigh the advantages.

Some students, such as peer counselor Caio Paiva-Oliveira ’20, believe that this program would bring a unique new chance to discuss health topics that can’t be discussed elsewhere.

Paiva-Oliveria stated, “I think that adding a more comprehensive health course will allow Deerfield students to expand their knowledge on taboo topics. It might take a bit of effort to change the standard of Deerfield course limits; but it’s a good introduction to a new discussion.”

Currently, the program seems very likely to be implemented into our school, but it is unclear when. The initiative requires many individuals from all parts of the community to work together and ensure that the new program is implemented to have as great a positive effect as possible, with as little inconvenience attached.

The curriculum itself is currently being finalized, but the timeline is fluid, and it is hard to get a clear estimate of when we can expect the initiative to be implemented.

The school has been talking about such a project for years now, and they have finally taken the leap to attempt truly lasting change for our community. Dr. Brown, as well as her peers working together on this initiative are all very excited to see the plan take shape and hopefully, change the community for the better.