It’s Complicated:
The Relationships Curriculum

I’m involved in the 2021-2022 school based research – what do I need to know?

What is the project?

From 2019-2024 PPO is working on developing a skills-based curriculum which aims to prevent teen dating violence by supporting grade 9 students in building satisfying relationships. In designing this curriculum our team has aimed to use a trauma informed and anti-oppressive lens which has been informed by extensive consultations with youth in Ontario.

This is a community-based research project done in collaboration with researchers from York University, in consultation with the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW), and funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Through this partnership we are evaluating the effectiveness of our curriculum, and will work with Ontario teachers to implement this evidence based curriculum in their classrooms.

Meet the Project Team! 

Alanna Goldstein (she/her)

Alanna Goldstein (she/her)

SSHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow

To learn more about Alanna and the work she’s done – see here!

Sarah Flicker (she/her)

Sarah Flicker (she/her)

Professor and York University Research Chair

To learn more about Sarah and her work – see here!

Ceara McIntyre (she/her)

Ceara McIntyre (she/her)

Education Coordinator

To get to know Ceara and what she’s up to- see here!

Léa Gareau (they/she)

Léa Gareau (they/she)

Curriculum Developer

To learn more about Léa and what they do – see here!

Timelines of the project

Year 1

January – December 2019

Brainstormed ideas, made community connections, made an action plan, researched what information already existed around teen dating violence curriculums.

Year 2

January – December 2020

Focus groups with youth and youth leaders, build first draft of the curriculum, shifted to an online curriculum delivery, piloted online curriculum with grade 9 students.

Year 3

January – December 2021

Finalized second draft of curriculum, facilitated an online youth coalition to gather feedback from youth on our curriculum, worked with OCTEVAW to gather feedback on the curriculum from an equity and gender based violence (GBV) lens. Began research phase of the project to assess effectiveness of the curriculum.

Year 4

January – December 2022

Finish research phase of curriculum. Incorporate any further lessons learned and feedback into the curriculum. Connect with teachers to mentor them in delivering the curriculum.

Year 5

January 2023 –
January 2024

Continue working with teachers to mentor them in delivering the curriculum. Attend events and work with community stakeholders to share lessons learned from the curriculum and delivering the curriculum.

Project highlights

2020

Spring Online focus groups and interviews

Our team conducted several focus groups with youth of various ages across Ontario to discuss their wants and needs in regards to relationship education in their schools. We met with diverse groups of youth to ensure voices that are not always heard were centered in the curriculum development.

We also had the pleasure of meeting with several Indigenous youth leaders. In doing so, we got a better sense of what particular considerations should be made in building a curriculum that considers Indigenous ways of knowing and worldviews.

2021

Summer Youth Coalition

Our team gathered youth from across Ontario between the ages of 14-18 to discuss education in schools on the topic of relationships. Youth received $25 gift cards each time they spent time with us. We shared with the group of youth our ideas on how to create interactive, anti-oppressive education, and they shared with us how we can better support the youth of today through education in school settings.

The youth also helped us design the visuals for our curriculum, came up with a title for our project, and co-created a letter to future teachers who will be teaching on the topic of relationship. This letter will be included as a foreword in our final curriculum document.

The Curriculum

As of Fall 2021 the curriculum has four main topics: Identifying one’s personal wants and needs in a relationship, strategies of de-escalation during conflicts, communication tips for a conflict and navigating accountability in relationships.

When deciding on the content and within the facilitation of this curriculum, there are a few major ideas that are included that make this curriculum unique:

Considers teachers perspectives

This curriculum takes into account the realities of an average Ontario school teacher, and the limitations they have to cover content around relationships, specifically time limitations were considered.

Explores relationship nuances

This curriculum goes beyond what is “easy” when teaching on relationships (ie. hitting is bad, kindness is good) and attempts to explore the nuanced areas of relationships like: emotions, jealousy, communication, etc.

Informed by youth

This curriculum also centers the lived experiences of youth in all their relationships, meaningfully incorporating lessons learned from extensive consultation with a diverse group of youth.

Uses a trauma-informed approach

When approaching the topics of teen dating violence, the curriculum takes into account the potential of students living with or through traumatic experiences. In doing so, we give participants choices that allow them to determine how they want to participate and our team always aims to ensure the benefits of a discussion outweigh the potential costs.

Challenges euro-centric ideas

Our curriculum aims to challenge euro-centric ideas of what a healthy relationship looks like by not enforcing a “one-size-fits-all” approach on how to understand or be in relationships.

This sounds cool! I want to be involved in this project.

It’s amazing that you want to be involved! We have a few different avenues for people to get involved. From September 2021 to June 2022, our team will be busy delivering the workshops to over 600 students within a research study. We currently have an agreement to work with a school board on this research study.

However, after we’ve finished our research portion in the summer of 2022, we will be looking for educators to mentor and work with to deliver this curriculum in their classes. If you are an educator who is interested in learning more about how to teach on the topic of relationships in your grade 9 classes, contact us for tips or for our mentoring opportunity.

Media 

Listen to our Curriculum Developer, Léa Gareau, share about the 2021 Summer Youth Coalition.

“The project aims to educate youth on how to avoid and prevent teen dating violence. The coalition was made to get youth input on a curriculum that Planned Parenthood is hoping to bring to ninth grade classes in Ottawa.”

Watch our Education Coordinator, Ceara McIntyre, and Researcher Partner, Alanna Goldstein, present at the 2021 CSSE Conference.

“Listen to diverse young people’s reflections on healthy and unhealthy relationships to develop a teen dating violence intervention.”