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Link to: Sample Parent Permission Form

(Scroll down for Syllabus of Powerful Choices.)

Powerful Choices is a unique 7-10 lesson series of risk avoidance curriculum, currently being used by schools and youth organizations.

Powerful Choices Curriculum Proven Effective

Recent research has shown that teens who participate in Powerful Choices are more likely to choose to remain abstinent from sex before marriage and from related risk behaviors such as alcohol and substance use. In surveys, participants made gains in the expected direction on attitudes and opinions towards sexual activity and abstinence, ideas about what a person should do when being pressured, interaction with parents, identification of STDs, and personal decisions about not having sex such as I have had sexual intercourse before, but I plan now to wait until marriage and I plan to save sexual activity for marriage.

Powerful Choices is a community-based abstinence education program that was implemented in Linn County, Iowa by Equipping Youth, a private non-profit funded by the federal Community Based Abstinence Education program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the years 2007-2010. The program provides abstinence-until-marriage education to middle school students in the Eastern Iowa area and creates an environment in schools and homes that supports youths’ decisions to postpone sexual activity until marriage. The evaluation was conducted by researchers at the University Of Iowa School Of Social Work, National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice using a quasi-experimental design to measure changes in knowledge and attitudes associated with the lessons of the Powerful Choices curriculum.  Seventh grade students in 13 schools completed pre-tests during the first lesson and post-tests after the tenth and final lesson in the curriculum.  Follow-ups were completed at six and twelve months following participation in the lessons. Pre-test, six, and twelve month follow-ups were also completed by similar youth not receiving Powerful Choices in control groups at comparison schools.

The data showed positive results for the questions asked of the youth, such as:

Waiting until marriage to have sex gives a person a better chance of reaching their goals for the future. 27.9% strongly agreed with this statement at pre-survey at 36.1% strongly agreed with this statement at the 12 month follow-up.

Abstinence from sex is the only certain way to not get pregnant or not get someone pregnant.  21.6% strongly agreed with this statement at pre-survey and 43.4% strongly agreed with this statement at the 12 month follow-up.

Have you asked your parent a question about sex? The percentage of students who talked with their parents about sex increased almost 6% between the pre-survey and 12 month follow-up.

Click for PC ProvenEffective graph that supports questions below.

Q14- Most teens are not ready to handle the problems that can come from having sex

Q15- Most teens know how to say no to sex before they get married

Q16- Waiting to be sexually active until marriage is very important

Q17- Using alcohol and drugs can influence a person’s decision to have sex

Q18- Waiting until marriage to have sex gives a person a better chance of reaching their future goals

Q19- Abstinence from sex is the only certain way to not get pregnant or not get someone pregnant

Q20- Waiting until marriage to have sex will give a person more respect for themselves

Q21- A sexually active person might get a disease or give a disease to their sexual partner

Compared to the control school students who did not receive lessons in Powerful Choices, statistically significant differences were found in the pre-tests on questions 14, 16, 18, and 20. Statistically significant differences were found between the six month follow-up of the treatment and control groups on questions 14, 16, and 19 while significant differences were found on the twelve month follow-up on questions 14-16 and 18-20.

The results indicate that those who participated in the Powerful Choices curriculum made gains in the expected direction on attitudes and opinions towards sexual activity and abstinence, ideas about what a person should do when being pressured, interaction with parents, identification of STDs, and personal decisions about not having sex such as “I have had sexual intercourse before, but I plan now to wait until marriage and I plan to save sexual activity for marriage.

For more information about Equipping Youth and Powerful Choices curriculum, please contact Ruth Anne Eccles, MSN at 319-861-2747 or see their website at www.equippingyouth.org.  For information about the evaluation, contact Brad Richardson, PhD at 319-335-4924.


Powerful Choices Series One
(Grades 4 – 6)
Series Two
(Grades 7 – 9)
Series Three
(Grades 7 – 12)
Wisdom Students learn to stop and think before making a choice. Students understand how risk and consequence accompany each choice. Students learn how to stay committed to their choices.
Awareness Students understand character traits as related to self worth. Students learn reasons teens abstain from or become involved in sexual activity. Students learn how past choices affect future relationships.
Friendship Students learn the dynamics of positive friendships as a two-way street. Students understand the different levels of friendships and how they influence one’s actions. Students learn the importance of building a strong foundation for friendship in marriage.
Control No lesson in Series One. May use part of the Series 2 lesson if needful. Students learn how drugs and alcohol affect decision making. Students learn about addiction and the consequences it can have on relationships.
Courage Students understand that courage needs to be exercised to be an effective person. Students learn how to be assertive rather than passive or aggressive when dealing with pressures to ignore their boundaries. Students learn how manipulation and con games can affect a relationship and how to stop being a con or to avoid cons.
Knowledge Students are introduced to the consequences of risk behaviors such as drugs and alcohol, sexual activity, stealing, lying and other related risks. Students learn about the prevalence and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases with an emphasis on choosing abstinence. Students learn added information about STDs, types of contraception with efficacy and failure rates of protection from STDs
Boundaries Students learn how to form appropriate boundaries pertaining to friendship; including information on appropriate internet behavior. Students learn what boundaries are and how to set them for themselves; how to ask for help from parents and others. Students learn how brain development affects their ability to make wise decisions and how to set their own boundaries accordingly.
Excellence A peer group of older youth present information about making wise choices; wrap up lesson for Series One. A peer group of older youth present their reasons for remaining abstinent until marriage; open question time. Students are encouraged through activities and a guided discussion to envision their hopes and dreams for their lives as adults.
Ambition No lesson in Series One.  May use part of the Series 2 lesson if needful. Students are challenged to set personal goals for the future, and to become aware of potential roadblocks. Students learn what committment means and how to make a personal investment in their relationships and future marriages.
Success No lesson in Series One.  May use part of the Series 2 lesson if needful. Students learn the positive effects abstinence can have on their lives, both present and future. Students identify their reasons for and benefits of waiting for marriage.

What Teachers Are Saying:

Barb PetersonPowerful Choices is a fabulous program! It is an engaging curriculum that is popular with both students and their parents. It uses an active learning style that makes the lessons meaningful and memorable for students. Connecting with today’s youth can be challenging and this curriculum certainly accomplishes making the connection!
Barb Peterson, Harding Middle School, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Tony Campbell“I liked Powerful Choices for my students because it’s good information, practical, and they can apply it immediately to their lives. I liked how each lesson was broken down with a hands-on activity or game. I really like having it in my classroom.”
Tony Campbell, Wilson Middle School, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

What Students Are Saying:

Powerful Choices! Wow. When I first started this unit in Wellness I was like, Alright, you can get through this. But after the weeks of going through it I realize what a tremendous change it has done for me! I learned that abstinence is the path you want to take in life. Also drugs and alcohol are very dangerous and shouldn’t be messed with!… I learned the way to succeed in life by wisdom and ambition and excellence and all those wonderful traits. Powerful Choices is definitely something I will use later in life! – 7th grade student journal

What I liked about Powerful Choices is the idea that we do have the power to choose. No one can stand in our way! – 8th grade student


Powerful Choices Syllabus

Instructor information Classroom teachers, school counselors, youth leaders of clubs, workers at juvenile incarceration facilities, youth pastors, and parents of teens have taught these series. Equipping Youth provides teacher training for using Powerful Choices curricula. Equipping Youth’s staff and executive director assist the instructor in understanding and using their unique methods of review and introduction of each day’s lessons as well as the use of demonstration-discussion and interactive-discussion described in the Teachers’ Manual of each lesson of the Powerful Choices series. The Teacher’s Manuals for each of the series are easily followed written instructions with suggested questions to assist in guiding each of the activities, demonstrations and discussions of the lessons.

Course information and description Powerful Choices is a proven successful prevention education curricula of three series for multiple grade levels that equips youth with the character traits and the assets needed to achieve their personal goals and dreams.  Popular culture assaults our youth with the negative influences of alcohol, drugs, violence and premature sexual relationships.  Such careless living jeopardizes the personal, social, and economic futures of our youth and our communities. The Powerful Choices curriculum series are a tool for your school or youth organization that provides resources to youth enabling them to meet these challenges. Easily incorporated into existing programs, the curricula can be adjusted to meet the specific needs of each classroom of youth. Equipping Youth provides a tool, the pre-survey, for assessing the individual needs of students.

Powerful Choices helps to improve participating students’ knowledge and choices. The lessons have been taught to tens of thousands of youth since 1998 in Linn County, Iowa and the surrounding rural communities. The first lessons were a collaborative achievement of seven agencies and a school district. The first use of the lessons, Powerful Choices, written by Equipping Youth’s director Ruth Anne Eccles and assisted by her staff, was in the school Year of 2002-2003. Internal evaluation as well as participant evaluation continued until 2010. Biannual updates of the curricula are available for teachers of Powerful Choices. Contact us to order updates. The latest research results show that participants of Powerful Choices are significantly more likely to indicate that they plan to remain abstinent from using drugs, alcohol, violence and bullying and premature sexual relationships than those in control populations. The latest research results can also be found on the web site www.equippingyouth.org 

Method of instruction The teaching method most utilized is self discovery; this is achieved through the use of student activities, demonstrations and discussions. Other methods of instruction used are storytelling, role-play, artistic expression, interviews of guests and journaling. Thousands of participants have given overwhelmingly positive feedback of their enjoyment in participating in the classes and of the positive decisions they have made because of the information they gained through the lessons. The theoretical frameworks of Behavior Change Theories used in these lessons are Positive Youth Development, Social Inoculation Theory, Social Norming Theory, Social Learning Theories with Self-efficacy and the Health Belief Model.

Course objectives The goal of these lessons is to build character traits and assets in the participants equipping them to make their best choices for their future successes. Lessons include setting personal goals for education, occupation, friends, family and intimate relationships, and current preparation knowhow and best decisions for future successes. Each Teacher’s Manual for each series has a description of the objectives and activities for each lesson. These pages are available on line at www.equippingyouth.org and may be downloaded and printed.

Course calendar or schedule  Series #1 has eight lessons and the other two series each have 10 lessons. The lessons can fit into class times of 30 – 60 minutes depending on how many of the activities in each are chosen by the instructor. Some schools have used two class times for several of the lessons extending the series to 15 – 20 class times.

Each of the series of lessons can be used with multiple grade levels. Some schools with many of their students participating in activities that generally yielded negative consequences started by teaching Series #1 to 4th through 6th grades, Series #2 to 7th through 9th grades and Series # 3 to 10th through 12th grades. Then the following years the Powerful Choices Series were taught in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades.

The most productive schedule that has been found through our research is to teach no more than two lessons per week with every other day being second best. Many schools use the materials one time a week or every day both of which are slightly less productive both having the same results on surveys of content retention. Giving a day or two between Powerful Choices classes allows the students to complete their journaling and their homework that is designed to be participated in by a parent or guardian. A very short or very long period of time between lessons makes retention difficult.

Course policies  If the educator is from Equipping Youth it is required that a teacher or other administrator from that school or youth organization be present at all times in the classroom. Each of the educators from Equipping Youth has been given a background check to ensure they are safe with children. The lessons are voluntary in public schools and each school must make that available to the students’ parents or guardians as well as to the students; providing an alternative for them during the class time of Powerful Choices. It is recommended that a parent conference be held prior to the beginning of the schedule of the Powerful Choices lessons. A guide to the parents’ meeting is in each of the Teachers’ Manuals with materials available on the CD in each manual.


Powerful Choices Series #1

Wisdom, Awareness, Friendship, Courage, Knowledge, Boundaries, Excellence

Powerful Choices Series #2

Wisdom, Awareness, Friendship, Control, Courage, Knowledge, Boundaries, Excellence, Ambition, Success

Powerful Choices Series #3

Wisdom, Awareness, Friendship, Control, Courage, Knowledge, Boundaries, Excellence, Ambition, Success


The supplies for the lessons are many. With the purchase of each Teacher’s Manual for each Series a CD containing all student worksheets, journals, parent permission forms, posters and teacher’s aids is included. The CD also contains pictures and descriptions of all games, activities, props and symbols required to teach each lesson.

These materials may be purchased along with the manual for an additional cost. Then you would receive all of the game pieces and Wisdom Bucket objects, plus copied and laminated posters, pictures, scenario cards, and everything else required to teach the series, including your Wisdom Bucket! Just unwrap it and go!! All of the games’ parts and students’ materials may be purchased from Equipping Youth on the web site or by calling 319-861-2747 and placing an order. Order forms will be mailed at your request. Prices can be seen on the web site.


Resources suggested for reading in preparation are included for each lesson of each of the series.


assignments and grading Students are challenged to share the content of each lesson with a parent or guardian through the use of take home discussion guides. Also available is a student journal with a page for each of the lessons. These may be required for a grade or incentive according to the teacher’s wishes. Suggestions are in the manuals.

specific notes or safety rules Each school and instructor must be aware of possible negative side effects of specific games and demonstrations. For example; use of latex balloons is not recommended because of allergies to such. Similar caution must be taken to not force any student to participate in or conform to an activity if they do not wish to do so. Each of the activities should be with voluntary participation only. The candy incentives can be changed to sugar free or corn free or any other allergen known to the school. A list of such should be obtained by the classroom instructor from the nurse so preparation can be made for specific students.  Challenged students are usually quite comfortable with the lessons and participate as they are able. Powerful Choices lessons have been successfully taught in facilities of incarcerated youth, behaviorally challenged classrooms as well as youth psychiatric treatment groups and residential treatment facilities.