The CrAFT Curriculum: A Deeper Dive into the How’s and Why’s of IWES’ Unique Spin on Comprehensive Sex Ed
The CrAFT Curriculum does not have a brief elevator pitch. In short, CrAFT—which stands for Creating A Future Together—is a comprehensive sex education program rooted in a human rights framework that integrates a gender-transformative and trauma-informed approach to educate young people about their health and rights. It may sound complex, but the CrAFT curriculum is an innovative new educational tool developed by IWES to serve the needs of students across Louisiana. It is an evidence-informed curriculum that integrates best practices in the field of sex education, IWES’ wealth of knowledge and experience around teaching New Orleans youth, and our unique trauma-informed approach that ensures that students develop strategies to cope with stress and support healthy decision-making. But that’s a lot of buzzwords—what does it all really mean?
Why Human Rights?
Introducing a human rights framework to a sex education class helps students to contextualize their lives and identities within a bigger global and historical lens. Students are encouraged to connect lessons about healthy relationships, gender and sexuality, and access to medical care to bigger narratives around social justice and rights. Through this approach, youth begin to recognize their intrinsic right to understand their body—the right to sex education and quality medical care.
“Gender-transformative” is a term that describes programs or content that foster a critical examination of gender norms and dynamics, strengthen and support equitable gender norms, and encourage interrogation of gender messages and stereotypes. In sum, this approach encourages young people to critically consider the messages they’re seeing in media and in their communities about how they’re “supposed” to be and helps them gain the confidence and self-efficacy to define their identities for themselves. Research has shown that interventions that integrate gender-transformative concepts are effective at promoting desirable health outcomes, including reducing unintended pregnancy and STIs for all genders.
Research has demonstrated that high stress levels contribute to sexual risk-taking. Young people in New Orleans have rates of depression, lifetime PTSD, and experiences of trauma that are higher than the national average, thus it’s particularly important that sex education in our state take a trauma-informed approach. The CrAFT curriculum integrates four mental health modules that address stress, coping skills, cognitive reframing and developing positive selves, and integrates a media component to help young people explore the lessons in the safety of fictional characters’ experiences before applying the content to their own lives.
CrAFT goes beyond ‘the birds and the bees’ to integrate a variety of concepts and skills that help young people build healthy selves. Knowledge is just one piece of the puzzle; CrAFT also integrates skill-building, media analysis, journaling, and other learning strategies to ensure students are receiving a well-rounded education on their bodies and their selves.
IWES has been implementing the CrAFT curriculum in various forms since 2015. It has been shaped and reshaped, piloted, adapted, and piloted again, and we’re excited to say that it is now being fully implemented in schools across the region. At a time when young people have the world at their fingertips on their phones and laptops, curricula like CrAFT are critically important. Where do most young people learn about sex and sexual health? The internet, the media, and their friends. CrAFT and other quality sex education curricula—in partnership with parents—exist to debunk the myths, rumors, and misinformation that is so easily accessible on the web. CrAFT fills a critical gap and need in our communities: to provide young people with the medically-accurate information and skills to make healthy decisions about their bodies and their futures.
During the 2018-2019 school year, CrAFT partnered with several schools to implement and share this unique curriculum with Louisiana students. This school year CrAFT is being implemented at the following sites:
International High School of New Orleans. The CrAFT curriculum has been shared with nearly all of their freshman class and some upper grade students too. Two full classes were completed in the Fall, and three more classes for the Spring semester have just started.
Jefferson Chamber Foundation Academy - East. This regional alternative high school has integrated the CrAFT curriculum into their Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) program.
Morris Jeff Community School. Morris Jeff will be sharing the CrAFT curriculum with almost their entire 10th grade class starting in March.
This school year alone, CrAFT anticipates reaching over 250 students across the Greater New Orleans region with innovative, comprehensive sex education. To learn more about CrAFT or to inquire about bringing the curriculum to your school, email Program Manager Steffani Bangel at firstname.lastname@example.org.