The Local Scene ~ Teen Pregnancy Prevention in Maine Schools

Kathy Kerr, Teacher at Mount Blue Middle School, Farmington

So far during Teen Pregnancy Prevention month, we have taken a global, national and statewide look at teen pregnancy.  Now we’re narrowing our focus even more — to the classroom level — to see what some Maine teachers and schools are doing.

FPA’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program works with schools and community organizations dedicated to providing youth with comprehensive sexuality education.  Our program’s main goal is to strengthen the capacity of Maine educators and schools as they provide sexuality education programs that deliver positive results.

We promote the use of evidence-based programs because they’ve been proven to change sexual behaviors among youth, like:

  • delaying sexual activity
  • reducing the number of sexual partners
  • reducing the frequency of sexual activity
  • increasing the use of condoms & other birth control methods among sexually active teens

These curriculums work by increasing students’ knowledge, building skills through interactive activities and encouraging students to evaluate their own values and attitudes around relationships and sexual behaviors. Students hear important messages about abstinence and how condoms prevent pregnancy and STDs. They also get a chance to practice important communication skills like how to talk to a current or future partner about these tough subjects.

In addition to working with teachers around the state to implement these interactive curriculums, our Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program also evaluates how the lessons affect student knowledge, attitudes, skills and intended behaviors.  And these evaluations show that teaching comprehensive, evidence-based programs makes a difference!

Take Kathy Kerr from Mount Blue Middle School, for example.  Three years ago, with the full support of her superintendent and principal, Kathy began to implement an evidence-based program called Making Proud Choices.

After completing eight lessons and activities about STDs, pregnancy prevention, safer sex and negotiation and communication skills, students reported significant changes in their knowledge, attitudes, skills and intentions to be abstinent or practice safer sex.  By the end of the curriculum, students confidently reported that abstinence is the safest way to avoid pregnancy and STDs.   Students had a much better understanding of what sexual behaviors put them at risk and reported more confidence in their ability to choose abstinence, make healthy decisions around sex and protect themselves in the future.

Here are some of the things Kathy’s students said at the end of the Making Proud Choices lessons:

“It’s preparing us for the future.”

“It tells us how to be safe.”

“It encourages us not to have sex at a young age.”

“It’s good we are learning about this stuff.  I’ve learned a lot about making good choices.”

“It makes you want to wait.  Now we know how to counteract our hormones.”

This concrete data shows that what we’re doing works!  In fact, the data is so good that parents who initially expressed reluctance changed their minds about the program when they saw what their students would be learning.

By giving students the opportunity to practice skills and gain confidence in their ability to make healthy choices, these teachers are changing the future.

Our hats go off to them during Teen Pregnancy Prevention month!

~ Christine Letcher, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coordinator

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