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Kids don't usually learn about the birds and bees in kindergarten. Unless, of course, they're Dutch.

The Netherlands' comprehensive sexuality education program starts in kindergarten. But what are those kids actually learning?

Kids don't usually learn about the birds and bees in kindergarten. Unless, of course, they're Dutch.

Oh, kindergarten. Finger painting, ABCs, and sexuality education.

Wait, sex ed!? Yep, you read that right.


WHAT ARE THESE CHILDREN WORKING ON, SEX WORKSHEETS?!?! (JK, probably not.) Image via Thinkstock.

Welcome to sex ed in the Netherlands. It starts when kids are 4.

As reported by PBS NewsHour, the Netherlands follows a program called “comprehensive sexuality education."

As part of the program, schools feature a week of classes in the spring focused on everything from love and healthy relationships (for the little kiddos) to safe sex and birth control (for the teens). The week is called “lentekriebels," which translates to “spring fever."

So wait, are 4-year-olds learning about sex in school?

Not exactly. But they are having open conversations that will make it easier to learn about those topics at a later age.

In one classroom, PBS filmed a clip of kindergarteners discussing hugging. “When do you hug someone?" asked the teacher. One student responded, “If you love someone."

Young kids talk about what people do when they love each other. Image via PBS NewsHour.

In later years, the students do learn specifically about sex: how to have sex, how to choose contraception, how to deal with resistance to using a condom, all sorts of things you'd typically think of being covered under "sex ed."

Even for older teens, sex itself isn't the only focus. Students also learn things like ... how to find (and enforce) their own boundaries.

But even for older teens, sex itself isn't the only focus. Students also learn things like how to communicate with their partner, how to find (and enforce) their own boundaries, and even how to use the Internet safely.

A class of 11-year-olds talks about what it's like to be in love. Image via PBS NewsHour.

OK, so spill the stats.

Does the comprehensive sexuality education program actually work? That depends, of course, on what you're measuring by.

Research shows that teenagers in the U.S. in the Netherlands first have sex at around the same age — about 17 for American teens, about 18 for Dutch teens.

But the U.S. has significantly higher rates of teen pregnancy and birth. In the Netherlands, 6 women out of every 1,000 aged 15-19 will give birth; 14 out of every 1,000 will get pregnant. The U.S. numbers are 4-5 times as high: 30 women out of every 1,000 aged 15-19 will give birth, and 57 will get pregnant.

"66% of sexually active American teens surveyed said they wished that they had waited longer to have sex for the first time."

The statistic I found really striking, though, has to do with how teens felt about their "first time." PBS NewsHour reports that in the Netherlands, most 12- to 25-year-olds "say they had 'wanted and fun' first sexual experiences. By comparison, 66% of sexually active American teens surveyed said they wished that they had waited longer to have sex for the first time."

Plenty of American movies show someone's first time as being after prom and ... not great. Image via Thinkstock.

The big deal isn't exactly what they're talking about, it's the fact that they're talking about it at all.

The Netherlands is known for having an incredibly open culture when it comes to discussing sex. No, I'm not saying that all parents in the Netherlands are telling their teens to have sex all the time, but the topic of conversation is far less taboo than we're used to in the U.S.

Open conversations, less shame when talking about sexuality, and ultimately more information overall? A culture like that means teens can actually gather the information to make smart choices that are right for them.

Sounds like a win to me.

Want to see it all in action? Check out this clip from PBS of a classroom full of 11-year-olds talking about what it's like to be in love. My favorite line here is when a young girl responds to the question, "What is really being in love?" with the wise words, "You find someone nicer than just regular nice." So true, my friend. So true.

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.