You’re in a crowded classroom. A room full of students look up at you expectantly. You walk to the front of the room and take a deep breath.
“Hi, I’m here to talk about sex.”
For the facilitators at Elephant Ed, this is their every day.
“At first, it was a bit daunting! You never know where people come from or the different viewpoints they bring with them. When you’re talking about sex, everyone’s experience and comfort levels can be completely different,” says Milly, one of Elephant Ed’s facilitators.
Elephant Ed, named because they ‘talk about the elephant in the room’, is a social enterprise that travels to schools across Australia to deliver evidence-based and age-appropriate workshops about sexuality, identity and relationships.
“We teach the ins and outs of sexual education. But beyond that, we dive into things like safe partying, sexting, puberty, gender identity, sexuality, gender equality… the list goes on, and all tailored to whatever year level we’re with that day,” says Milly.
Key to the Elephant Ed offering is their premise: ‘for young people, by young people’. They understand that young people, much like anyone else, are much more likely to listen to someone who is not only informed, but someone they can relate to.
It makes Milly, a 24-year-old studying a Masters of public health specialising in sexual health, an ideal match.
“What we teach students can sometimes be difficult for them to talk freely about, for whatever reason. I think there are two reasons why what we do works so well.
“First, it’s about relatability. All the Elephant Ed facilitators are young people who are really passionate about what we do, so the students feel like they can talk to us in a way they can’t to their parents, family members or teachers,” says Milly.
“And then it’s about relevance. Sexuality today is different, and technology has made a huge impact. We understand all of that, and speak the same language.”
The success of Elephant Ed speaks to a fundamental truth in any kind of communications, media or advertising: we’re more likely to believe people or organisations that we can see ourselves in.
And the results speak for themselves. In surveys given to all students after every workshop, 98% say they liked having young facilitators. 97% say they’d like Elephant Ed to return in the future. When you consider they’re teaching tens of thousands of young people each year, the numbers are astounding.
For Milly, that’s a big part of what makes it such a rewarding gig.
“It’s such a great feeling to know straight after a workshop that kids are really engaging and getting something out of it. We’re really getting through, and reaching students at a hugely important time in their lives.”
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