Exploring Body Image Issues in the Classroom

By Heather Thompson
October 27, 2014

Did you know that one in four boys between 10 and 14 years old diet despite being a healthy weight? And, that girls and boys who diet are in fact at 324 percent greater risk for obesity than those who do not diet? Body-based harassment continues to be socially acceptable and the reality is that students bring these real life issues into the classroom. Teachers are eager to assist students with developing key skills to be successful, but are sometimes unsure of where to turn for resources, support and next steps.

Exploring issues of body image and self-esteem development is vital for students in today's society. Research continues to show that girls and boys are engaging in self-harming behaviours such as food restriction/dieting, excessive exercising, etc. at earlier ages; and that poor body image in youth can result in avoidance of many academic, social and economic opportunities. Students in today's society need to develop critical thinking skills that allow them to critically analyze the multitude of messages they are bombarded with from adults, peers, society, and media.

Beyond Images, a free, online body image curriculum from NEDIC (National Eating Disorder Information Centre) provides students in grades 4 to 8 with the opportunity to explore key issues in today's society around body image and self-esteem as well as media messaging, while developing critical thinking skills. The Beyond Images program is a powerful tool in creating authentic learning opportunities for students in the classroom, and fits nicely into collaborative inquiry opportunities in junior and intermediate classrooms. Prepared lessons target Ontario curriculum expectations as well as critical thinking skills. Teachers engage with the students through the lessons in a very authentic learning process, from establishing learning goals and success criteria, to providing a variety of opportunities through which students demonstrate their learning through the arts and media. These lessons can be downloaded from, where there is an introductory webinar and information to further teachers' understanding of the key issues related to body image and self-esteem development in students.

Perhaps the best part of Beyond Images is the opportunity to work with The Director's Cut - a company that provides "in class field trips" in which students engage in the Beyond Images lessons and use their learning to create digital media that demonstrates their understanding. Students work collaboratively with their peers to create outstanding media representations of their learning. As the culminating task to a collaborative inquiry based on the "big ideas" of body image and critical media awareness, inviting Director's Cut to come into the classroom to work with students provides hands-on learning experiences which incorporate descriptive, immediate feedback, and assessment opportunities.

As teachers weigh the opportunities to balance new and exciting ideas with the required curricula, board and ministry initiatives for this school year, bringing Beyond Images into the classroom is a vital way to assist students with developing critical thinking skills, combating body-based harassment, and meeting the requirements of planning collaborative inquiries that are meaningful.

Heather Thompson is co-author of the Grades 4 – 8 curriculum which can be accessed at

Beyond Images is a program of the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC). NEDIC is a Canadian not-for-profit organization committed to the prevention of eating disorders. For more information visit or call the toll-free helpline at 1-866-NEDIC-20 or 416-340-4156.

Beyond Images

A self-esteem and body-image curriculum


  • More than half of children report being involved in appearance based bullying. Beyond Images curriculum helps build a better understanding and resilience toward negative messaging among students and in the schoolyard.

  • Based on research, Beyond Images focuses on providing age-appropriate information and activities to make a positive difference in combatting appearance based bullying and negative stereotypes.

  • Nearly 1,000 teachers have used Beyond Images in their classrooms since it became web enabled in 2013.

  • 23,717 students from across Canada have completed Beyond Images curriculum.

  • Developed by Canadian educators, Helen Vlachoyannacos and Heather Thompson, Beyond Images fills a gap in media literacy and meets curriculum outcomes in all provinces.

  • Beyond Images has 4 one-hour lesson plans for each grade (4 through 8), 20 free lessons in total. Each lesson plan can be taught as a stand alone or done as a unit, and includes tips and backgrounders for teachers.

  • This comprehensive media literacy curriculum also includes:

    • Lesson objectives

    • Lesson plans and contemporary mixed media examples

    • Student worksheets

    • Evaluation rubrics

  • The self-esteem and body image curriculum is free and can be downloaded at

  • Beyond Images is generously supported by the Dove Self-Esteem Project

For more information about Beyond Images or the National Eating Disorder Information Centre, please call 416-340-4156 or toll-free at 1-866-NEDIC-20.

Heather Thompson is Vice President of Peel Elementary Teachers’ Local.

Canadian Teachers’ Federation
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Tel: 613-232-1505
Fax: 613-232-1886
Toll Free: 1-866-283-1505

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