Health Education

Vermont law defines comprehensive health education as “systemic and extensive” educational program and requires this education for K-12 students. School health programs for K-12 students prove to be more effective in changing health behaviors than occasional programs on a single health topic. Vermont Education Quality Standards (EQS) stipulate each Supervisory Union/Supervisory District/Unified District (SU/SD/UD) have a written and delivered curriculum aligned with standards approved by the State Board of Education that enables students to engage annually in rigorous, relevant and comprehensive learning opportunities that allows them to demonstrate proficiency in seven content areas, including health.

Health Education Standards

Health literacy is defined as "the capacity of individuals to obtain, interpret and understand basic health information and service, and the competence to use such information and services in ways that enhance health." The State Board of Education adopted The National Health Education Standards (NHES) in May 2015 to be used as a framework for schools to develop a health curriculum that will help ensure that our young people will acquire the knowledge and skills through proficiency-based learning.  This approach empowers young people to create a foundation of good health for the future.

A Vermont Portrait of a Graduate and Health and Physical Education 

The Agency of Education provides schools with sample proficiency-based graduation requirements for health and physical education based on state-adopted standards. These sample graduation proficiencies are examples of a rigorous proficiency-based graduation framework that meets Education Quality Standards requirements. A Vermont Portrait of a Graduate (PoG) was collaboratively developed to be used as a tool for reviewing and refining local proficiency-based graduation requirements, as well as a guide for making instructional decisions. The PoG specifies the cognitive, personal, and interpersonal skills and abilities that students should be able to demonstrate upon graduation considering six attributes: learner agency, global citizenship, academic proficiency, communication, critical thinking and problem solving, and well-being. Each attribute includes key descriptors and performance indicators.  

Health and physical education programs should provide students with valuable learning experiences that support the development of PoG attributes. The following diagram highlights specific health and physical education program skills and abilities that are associated with PoG attributes. For each attribute, a short explanation describes the connection to health and physical education student outcomes.

Health and Physical Education can serve as a pedagogical tool for supporting the performance indicators in the Vermont Portrait of a Graduate. Embedded in the Portrait are key concepts explorable through the Health and Physical Education. 

Learner Agency 

Ownership of Learning • Skilled Mover • Focus on Goals 

Through health and physical education, students learn to take ownership of their learning by developing the knowledge and skills needed to manage their health and physical fitness, develop movement competence, and set realistic goals to enhance their health and well-being. Physical education teaches students how to evaluate and maintain health-related physical fitness using self-selected physical activities and value the role physical fitness fulfills in health and personal success. Physical education also teaches students social responsibility through participation in a variety of individual, team, and life-long physical activities as well as the value of participating in physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and /or social interaction. Health education teaches students essential health skills for managing and enhancing their personal, physical, mental, emotional, and social health. Together, health and physical education develop critical proficiencies that support academic success and career and college readiness. 

Global Citizenship 

Health Literate • Respect • Advocate • Collaborate 

Global citizenship centers around the ability to engage in respectful collaboration to solve problems. Physical Education teaches students responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others while participating in individual and team activities. Students learn to accept individual differences and cooperate with classmates to meet initiatives, solve problems and play games. Health Education supports the development of health literacy and interpersonal communication skills (listening, self-expression, refusal, conflict resolution, and negotiation) and the effective use of these skills in real-life situations. In both health and physical education, students learn to solve problems and advocate for their personal needs in a respectful and responsible manner, working interactively with others in instructional and school-based activities. 

Academic Proficiency 

Health Literate • Physically Literate • Reflective 

Health and physical education support academic success in all content areas. Students learn holistic health is the overall state of their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health; it impacts their entire being and extends to everyone and everything (e.g., environment or geographic location) that interacts with them. The National Health Education Standards guide the development of health literate individuals who have the knowledge, skills, and motivation to make judgements and decisions about healthcare, disease prevention, and health promotion to maintain or improve their quality of life. The SHAPE America physical education standards guide the development of physically literate individuals who have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to enjoy a lifetime of healthful, physical activity to maintain good health and fitness, which supports the ability to work and play. Both health and physical education teach students how to critically reflect on their health status as well as their learning experiences, and to create plans to improve health, which in turn supports academic success.  


Feedback • Self-Expression • Advocacy 

Effective communication is an essential life skill. Health education teaches, provides practice, and assesses students’ interpersonal communication skills. Instructional activities support use of effective communication skills in relationships, when advocating for self and others, and when communicating face-to-face or using email, texting, social media or other technologies. Health and physical education should provide students with opportunities to select and participate in learning activities that are engaging and allow self-expression. Learning activities should also teach students to accept feedback for improving performance as well as provide opportunities for giving appropriate feedback to peers. 

Critical Thinking & Problem Solving 

Access Information • Analyze Influences • Make Decisions • Set Goals 

Health and physical education support the development of critical thinking and problem solving. In physical education, students learn to analyze influences that impact personal fitness and physical activity levels and use personal information to make decisions and set goals to improve or maintain health-related physical fitness.  Health education teaches students seven essential health skills, including analyzing influences, accessing valid and reliable information, decision-making, goal setting, interpersonal communication, practicing health-enhancing behaviors (self-management), and advocacy; four of which help individuals become critical thinkers and problem solvers. Students develop skills for analyzing influences, accessing information, making decisions, and setting goals through health education.   


Mental & Physical Fitness • Social-Emotional Wellness • Self-Management 

Healthy students are better learners. Health and physical education develop individuals’ knowledge and skills to manage personal well-being. The goal of health and physical education is to teach students to manage their physical, mental, emotional, and social health to attain mental, cognitive and physical fitness. Health and physical education social-emotional learning targets focus on developing:  

  • Personal and Social Responsibility (respect, involvement, responsibility and caring);  
  • Character (trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship);  
  • Intrapersonal intelligence (self-knowledge for accessing, identifying and drawing upon feelings to guide behavior); 
  • Interpersonal intelligence (identifying and responding appropriately to temperaments and desires of others);  
  • Emotional intelligence (recognizing one’s emotional responses, and those of others, and using this knowledge in effective ways); and  
  • Social/Emotional learning (developing self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision making, and relationship management).  

Teaching Social Emotional Learning through health and physical education helps students navigate many of the challenges they face each day. It promotes academic achievement and positive social behavior, while reducing conduct problems, substance abuse and emotional distress. 


Benes, S and Alperin, H. Health Education in the 21st Century: A Skills-based Approach. JOPERD.  

Benes, S and Alperin, H. The essentials of teaching health education. Human Kinetics. 2016. 

SHAPE America. National standards and grade-level outcomes for K-12 physical education. 2014. 

Social-Emotional Learning through Physical Education. 

Linking Health & Learning – A Newsletter for Vermont’s Health and Physical Educators

Health Education Resources

  • SHAPE America Reentry to School Resources: K-12 considerations and resources to help provide safe and supportive health and physical education instruction in the new school year.
  • Kaiser Permanente Playbook: Playbook is a useful for school leaders and health and physical education teachers. The playbook is focused on the health and well-being of teachers, students and staff.
  • SHAPE America Download Library - Health
    Classroom-ready & teacher-friendly resources you can use right now to help your students on the path to health and physical literacy.
  • EVERFI: EVERFI has resources for teaching students to make healthy choices in a safe environment. EVERFI partners with sponsors nationwide to offer interactive, online health resources to K-12 schools free of charge.

  • KidsHealth: KidsHealth offers educators free health-related lesson plans for PreK through 12th grade. Teacher guides include discussion questions, classroom activities and extensions, printable handouts, and quizzes and answer keys – all aligned to National Health Education Standards.

  • Learn to be Healthy: Learn to be Healthy is a standards-based resource that includes lesson series on several health topics.

  • Vermont Department of Health: The Vermont Department of Health website includes information, resources and curricula for educators who help students understand their own health and important public health issues.

  • The Health Teacher: Current, relevant, adaptable resources for connecting health curriculum to the world we live in.

  • Agency of Education Sexual Health Education Resources: The Agency of Education (AOE) is responsible for helping to increase the awareness of sexual health related information and services that are available to promote student wellness and increase academic success.

Technical Assistance Resource Guide for Sexual Violence Prevention in Vermont

The Technical Assistance Resource Guide (TARG), created by the Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force pursuant to Act 1 of 2009 and updated in 2014, provides guidance for schools to build their capacity for and knowledge of sexual violence prevention. Additional resources for schools and educators:

CPR Instruction

Act 151 of 2012 requires that information regarding and practice of compression-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the use of automated external defibrillators becomes a part of comprehensive health education.


Email Susan Yesalonia, Ed.D. or call (802) 828-6553.

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Vermont Agency of Education
Secretary Daniel M. French
1 National Life Drive, Davis 5
Montpelier, VT 05620-2501

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