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Adolescent Issues Program

The Adolescent Issues Program was developed at LREI and is used at other independent schools. Its mission is to help students develop the important interpersonal skills needed for thoughtful, informed decision-making and problem-solving.

Faculty and students work together to develop topics, which are then explored in a series of discussions and through role-playing exercises and other activities. Age appropriate issues include learning styles, diversity, conflict resolution, friendships, social justice, substance abuse, sexuality and safety. Weekly meetings provide the supportive environment needed to help Middle School students of all ages discover who they are and who they want to become.

The Adolescent Issues program has three overarching goals. They are:
  1. To help students develop good discussion skills. This includes the ability to explain oneself clearly and the more difficult skill of active and effective listening.
  2. To provide students with factual information about, and opportunities for discussion on, a wide variety of topics important to pre-adolescents and adolescents.
  3. To provide the skills for, and opportunities to practice, reflective and informed decision making connected to students’ values and beliefs.
Though the general topics are often same across the grades, the actual content and activities differ with the age of the students. However, all of the discussions are based on the premise that an adult cannot make all of a child's decisions for her/him and that a fundamental goal of adolescence is for each individual to become an informed and responsible decision maker.

Adolescent Issues topics by grade:

Fifth Grade —
The fifth grade spends much of the first two quarters discussing issues related to the transition to middle school. We frame these discussions by making a philosophical inquiry into the meaning of terms like friendship, responsibility, happiness and justice. Our discussions focus on the responsibilities that come with the independence that is part of the middle school experience. We also spend a fair amount of time talking about friendships and the many pressures that can exert a push or pull on these relationships. We include a substantial unit on bullying and teasing and end the year by exploring a range of diversity-related themes.

Sixth Grade — 
The sixth grade starts the year with discussions based on our reading of Jarvis Clutch – Social Spy, which takes a humorous and thoughtful look at some of the challenges associated with “fitting in and feeling good about it.” Through this investigation, we examine some of the pressures associated with social challenges like “seeming right,” “talking right” and “acting right.” We also examine how these issues relate to strategies that can be used to deal with peer pressure and to resolve conflicts effectively. We then explore a range of safety issues (e.g., walking home alone, subway safety and home safety). We then move to a unit on Internet safety and clarify norms for on-line interactions with peers. We end the year with units on smoking and puberty and sexuality.

Seventh Grade –
The focus of Adolescent Issues in the seventh garde is on supporting the students as they learn to make decisions that are based on their values and to practice making a variety of decisions with increasing independence. We spend some time early in the year identifying individual student’s values and discussing how to navigate situations in which a student’s values might be in conflict with those of a friend.  We also spend some time discussing rights and responsibilities of members of the class–a Bill of Rights for Seventh Graders.  As part of this discussion, we explore how peers can help and support a friend who may be having a difficult time. In the second half of the year, we discuss issues of substance abuse and begin discussions of puberty and sexuality.

Eighth Grade –
The Eighth Grade has a variety of discussions about being safe on-line. We examine the opportunities and pitfalls of social networks and consider how our values can guide us through complexities posed by on-line communication. Building on seventh grade discussions, we continue to explore how peers can help and support a friend who may be having a difficult time. In the second half of the year, we discuss issues of substance abuse and begin discussions of puberty and sexuality.
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