Growth Stages 2: Middle Childhood and Early Adolescence

What You Need


Growth Stages 2: Middle Childhood and Early Adolescence


To introduce students to the stages of human growth and development that take place during middle childhood and puberty.


This lesson is the second of a two-part series aimed at introducing students to the different stages of growth and development in human beings from birth to 18 years of age. In these lessons, students become familiar with the four key periods of growth and human development: infancy (birth to 2 years old), early childhood (3 to 8 years old), middle childhood (9 to 11 years old), and adolescence (12 to 18 years old). For each stage of development, they learn about key physical stages or milestones, which are research and science-supported indicators that help to track the progress of a child's physical development at different stages of life. Conversely, they also learn that it is very natural and normal for children to reach these markers at different times.

Growth Stages 1: Infancy and Early Childhood helps students to become better aware of all of the natural physical stages of growth children experience in the first five years of life. In Growth Stages 2: Middle Childhood and Early Adolescence, students focus on the kinds of physical changes that children in their age range begin to undergo during puberty.

Research shows that children are fascinated by films and stories about early stages of human development and they are particularly intrigued by comparisons of themselves now and earlier. It may be helpful at this level to inform students about changes that will take place in them during adolescence, since when they reach puberty, they may be too embarrassed to talk to adults about it. The importance for growth of adequate rest, proper food, regular checkups, and shots to prevent disease should be supported by some science behind the advice. (Benchmarks for Science Literacy, p.132.)

For more background information and research, see the Growth 2: Human Development teacher sheet.

Ideas in this lesson are also related to concepts found in the following benchmark:

  • 5B The Living Environment: Heredity (3-5) #1

Planning Ahead

The Growth Stages During Puberty student sheet was adapted and made level-appropriate from the American Academy of Pediatrics brochure, Puberty Information for Boys and Girls.


This section will serve as a brief review of the basic concepts from the first lesson in this series and a lead-in to the growth and development changes experienced by older children.

Since students at these grade levels fall within late-early childhood (ages 3 to 8) and middle childhood (ages 9 to 11), warm-up questions should help them make the connection between the growth stages they previously learned about, their awareness of their own growth and development, and the kinds of changes that kids undergo during middle childhood and early adolescence (the focus of this lesson). You might ask:

  • In what ways do infants and children aged 1 to 5 grow and develop?
  • Do children continue to grow in stages when they become 8, 9, 10, 11 years of age? Why or why not?
  • Why don't all people grow at the same time and at the same rate?
    (As learned in the previous lesson, all people are different and have different parents [genetics] whom they naturally follow in terms of growth.)
  • Have you noticed any changes in your own growth and development?

    (Answers may vary. Encourage students to support their answers using examples.)

Note: Since you may find teaching about puberty at the 3-5 level to be a bit difficult or inappropriate, this lesson has been structured to focus primarily on the physical changes that kids experience between middle childhood and early adolescence (puberty). And while the lesson briefly covers all of the changes that boys and girls undergo, it will be up to you to determine the extent to which students examine and talk about the more sensitive areas of this topic.


Have students read I'm Growing Up - But Am I Normal? from the KidsHealth website, to consider more deeply the kinds of changes and issues they will face or are presently facing during puberty. This resource will help them gain some of the facts about growth spurts during middle childhood and adolescence—basically, that it is perfectly normal for all kids to grow at different rates and to different degrees (at different times). This is a key benchmark point.

When finished reading, review what they have read by asking questions like these:

  • In what ways do genes affect a person's growth and development? (Genes influence human growth and development in countless ways. They largely determine the shape and size of a person, eye and hair color, etc.)
  • Besides genes, what other things can affect a person's growth and development? (A person's environment can affect the rate of growth, particularly if he or she is not able to maintain a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep and enough exercise.)
  • When do boys and girls usually start puberty? (It is normal for all kids to start puberty at different times. However, the average age for girls to start is about 10 years old, with others beginning somewhere between 7 and 13. Boys usually start at about 11 years, while others may begin between 9 and 15.)
  • What is important to remember about weight gain or loss? (Since people come in all shapes and sizes, it is important to remember that it is often normal or healthy for a person to weigh more or less than what is considered normal. Like everything else, our genes play a big part in determining our weight, so it is important to accept this fact and not go on any radical diets to either lose or gain weight. Doctors can help decide a healthy weight range for a person.)

Next, distribute the Growth Stages During Puberty student sheet, which separates and breaks down the key growth areas that boys and girls experience, while briefly covering the kinds of natural emotional changes they typically undergo during this period.

Note: Many of the growth areas listed on the student sheet may make students feel uncomfortable or lead to teasing among others. Emphasizing how everyone experiences these natural and normal changes may help the class to maintain the right focus while learning about what lies ahead of them developmentally.

When finished reading over the student sheet, discuss what they have read and check their comprehension with questions like:

  • Who usually experiences puberty first, boys or girls? (Girls begin about a year before boys.)
  • How does the shape of a boy's body change during this period? (Shoulders broaden, muscles develop, and they put on more weight.)
  • In which area do girls usually first experience growth during puberty? (Breasts.)
  • What happens to a boy's voice during this period? (The voice deepens and may begin cracking for a certain period of time.)
  • What kinds of feelings or emotional changes happen during this rapid period of growth? (Both boys and girls start caring about what others think, become self conscious about growth changes, separate from parents and identify more with friends, etc.)


Review and reinforce the lesson material. Consider and pose questions that help students further identify and apply what they have learned to their own lives. Such questions may include:

  • What do you think are some good ways to cope with the changes that occur during this rapid period of growth? (Talk to family members, understand that changes are natural and normal, meet with a doctor if overly concerned, read articles or books on the subject.)
  • Do you think it is helpful to know about these kinds of changes? Why or why not? ("Yes" is the preferred answer since most will agree that it is better to understand and be prepared for what lies ahead of them. If some students say "No," encourage them to explain why.)
  • Do kids have any control over these kinds of changes? Why or why not? (Not really. Again, your family genetics serve as a natural plan of growth for you. It is important to appreciate and accept this fact. However, you do have some control over your own growth and development. That is, if you eat right, get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, and see a doctor regularly, you will help to ensure that you grow and develop to your full potential.)


Inside the Human Body: The Respiratory System is an excellent resource for both elementary- and high-school students. Early elementary students can enjoy a storybook, a coloring book, games, worksheets, and articles that provide basic material on air pollution, smoking, lung health, and the respiratory system.

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Lesson Details

Grades Themes Type Project 2061 Benchmarks

Other Lessons in This Series