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Youngsters learn facts of life with Plasticine

Children in the upper primary school years should be taught about condoms and Aids, according to researchers at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

A conference on "health-promoting schools" was told that teachers should explain safe sex and basic sexual anatomy to 10-year-olds. Sex education should be integrated from primary to secondary school, the researchers said.

La Trobe's centre for the study of sexually transmissible diseases conducted an evaluation of an eight-week sex-education course for children in the final two years of primary school.

The course began with a discussion on the slang and scientific names of male and female genitalia, followed by "ice-breaking" exercises using Plasticine or pencils to create human bodies with sex organs.

Other topics included a basic introduction to reproduction, body changes during puberty, menstruation, intercourse, conception and pregnancy, childbirth, and guarding against sexually transmitted diseases.

Follow-up studies showed improved communication among the children who took the course.

One of the researchers, Dr Lyn Harrison, said Australian children were reaching puberty earlier and teachers needed to respond to these changes. She added that there was no suggestion that the children in the study were or became sexually active as a result of undertaking the sex education course.

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