Voices from the past inform new health and wellbeing education toolkit

  • Date

    Wed 23 Feb 22

A vintage advert about about contraception showing a young man, with his fingers in his ears and a second pair of hands covering his eyes and the words 'Is this your attitude to contraception?'

Essex historians are launching a new toolkit for teachers which uses historical sources to support health and wellbeing education in schools.

It’s hoped the Bodies, Hearts and Minds toolkit, which covers topics from stereotypes to body image, relationships and contraception, will empower young people across Britain to take control of their emotional and bodily wellbeing.

It’s been developed by the research team behind the Body, Self and Family project, who have collected 91 oral history testimonies from women born between 1940 and 1970 to explore the health experiences of women and girls in post-war Britain.

The toolkit, which is aimed at 11-16 year olds, uses quotes from the testimonies, as well other sources including real questions published in agony aunt columns, comic strips and advertisements, to help young people understand different generations, growing up, body image and self-expression, and sex.

It will be launched at an online event on 24 February.

Professor Tracey Loughran from the Department of History, is Principal Investigator on the Body, Self and Family project. She explained what inspired the team to develop the Bodies, Hearts and Minds teaching toolkit: “We believe it’s important to know what happened in the past so that we can understand how we ended up where we are today.

“Understanding how experiences of health and wellbeing were different in the past, especially what has changed and why, can help young people to think differently about the choices that are open to them today.”

The toolkit has been trialled by teachers and Young Mental Health Ambassadors working with Healthwatch Essex.

One young ambassador who took part in the trial said: “I absolutely loved this theme of empowerment [...] these interactive activities, discussions and fun photos really enhance the concepts of female identity in a very positive light [...] It really hit home for me with my personal mental health journey and I believe if this was shown to me when I was younger I think things would have turned out differently.”

Matthew Eggerton, a teacher at Cardiff and Vale College who also took part in the trial of the toolkit added: “The toolkit is head and shoulders above the majority of resources like this I have seen. It's perfectly pitched for students - knowledgeable, engaging, and doesn't speak down to them. The activity guides, learning objectives, and curriculum links mean that it is easily usable in classroom contexts.”

The toolkit provides prompts, discussion topics and creative activities that encourage children aged between 11 and 16 to explore how gender, sexuality and ethnicity affected health and wellbeing experiences in the past; how young people’s experiences have changed in the last 60 years and stayed the same; how young people found out about health and wellbeing in the past and whether they have access to better information today; and how the media affected young people in the past and whether pressures on young people have changed.

Download the toolkit.

The Body, Self and Family project is funded by the Wellcome Trust.

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