Beginning in third grade, Gordon students have weekly health and wellness classes.
By the time they hit Middle School, students have the vocabulary, and the shared trust, necessary to tackle some delicate topics in identity and self-care.
Today in health class, sixth graders did a critical reading of magazine advertising.
The raw material would not have been out of place at a hair salon or a dentist's office.
In the context of a Gordon sixth grade health class, it was jarring.
Some ads were frustrating.
Some ads were hilarious.
And despite the students' best efforts to remain objective, some ads were just as fascinating and on target as the advertisers had intended them to be.
The lesson built on conversations from December's health class about positive body image and consumer media.
In those conversations, students had been introduced to the work of Jeanne Kilborne, a researcher who presented at Gordon in 2007.
On Thursday, these students will get another critical take on media and mental health at a workshop with Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair.
Dr. Steiner-Adair's work draws attention to the ways that electronic media can disrupt personal relationships.
It's a topic that will demand some frank and thoughtful self-assessment.
These students are ready for it.
They've been practicing for years.
Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair will spend Thursday meeting with Gordon students and administrators, and give a evening presentation for parents and educators that is free and open to the public, 6pm. More information at www.gordonschool.org/families
Later this winter, sixth graders will collaborate on advertisements that use "positive, non-stereotypical, empowering imagery" to sell consumer products.