My first day of 2018 teaching was at St. Bede, and it was great to see all the students again after the holidays. Here is what we talked about:
4th Grade – No Way Out
Monday wasn’t just everyone’s first day back at school, it was also the first rainy day of 2018. With the hazards that mother nature can sometimes stir up for us in mind, I thought it would be a good time to talk to the kids about safety. Hopefully, all of the kids like to do things outdoors, but its important that they don’t put themselves in risky situations needlessly. We started class by talking about the importance of things like wearing a helmet when riding a bike or following the lifeguards directions when you are at the beach. Every year, I hear a handful of stories from the schools that I teach at about kids that get hurt playing outside because they didn’t take a basic precaution.
After that, we watched a PSA about the flood control channels in LA County. “No Way Out” is (by far) the oldest video I have (in order to do it justice I should play it on an old reel to reel projector). However, like a pine tree the message of the video is evergreen, and it always leaves an impression on the students that see it.
The video was produced in the 90’s in a joint effort by many LA County and City agencies to bring safety awareness regarding the concrete flood channels in the southland. These cement rivers are not meant for recreation, and although it (almost) never rains in Southern California, flooding is a very real issue when it does.
The video has lots of exciting footage of water rescues, and it finishes with a very sad story about a local boy (Adam Bischoff of Woodland Hills) that drowned in the channels. I show the video not just to show the dangers of the storm channels, but also to emphasize the importance of not taking unnecessary risks when it comes to all of the recreational activities the kids participate in.
Unfortunately, just last year another teenager was killed in the flood channels when Elias “Eli” Rodriguez fell into the wash on his way to his grandmother’s house from school in Sylmar last February. I show this lesson at my schools, so that our kids know the risks and hopefully help them think twice about putting themselves into these precarious situations.
5th Grade – The Team Game
My time with the 5th grade was spent talking about tobacco products. I started by explaining to the kids not think of drugs as good or bad. Drugs are just inanimate chemicals that affect our minds and bodies in a variety of ways. The good or bad comes from why a person chooses to use a drug. The laws and attitudes surrounding drugs are constantly changing, but every time a person uses a drug for any reason there is a risk involved. Especially for kids that are still growing and developing, the only time they should be using a drug is with the approval of their parents and/or under the care of a doctor. Anything drug use outside of that is likely something they should not be doing.
After that introduction, I turned the discussion towards tobacco. Five students from each class performed a skit called “The Team Game” which stated numerous facts about the hazards of smoking and chewing tobacco. Highlights included:
- identifying chewing tobacco (spit and dip), cigarettes and cigars
- the long term and short term effects of chewing tobacco (tooth and gum problems, mouth cancer, addiction, etc)
- the long term and short term effects of smoking (emphysema, lung cancer, stained teeth and fingernails, smoke stench, addiction, etc).
- legal age and increased risk of smoking or chewing as a youth
I finished the lecture with a few visual aids of the effects of smoking on lungs. First, there is the bottle of tar that shows the amount of gunk that will pass through an every day smoker’s lungs over the course of a year.Then I have a board with plaster models of lungs before and after smoking depicting lung cancer and emphysema. I also have a display of preserved lung tissue showing a healthy lung along side an emphysematous lung of a 20 year smoker.
Needless to say, the kids were very clear by the end of class that tobacco products are legal to use for an adult, but are not a healthy choice in any way shape or form.
6th Grade – Marijuana and THC (Part 1)
During my time with the 6th and 7th graders I talked about marijuana and THC. We started by talking about the recent changes in the law; although the laws legalizing recreational marijuana in California have gone into effect at the start of 2018, cities all over the state are still trying to figure out the rules and guidelines for adults to use the drug. Add the contradictory Federal laws that still outlaw THC products and the legalization of marijuana is still a very confusing and ambiguous topic. With that being said, I remind the kids that the rules regarding kids and marijuana haven’t changed at all: a school aged child that gets caught in possession of or using a marijuana product is breaking the law and will face consequences from law enforcement, school administration and (hopefully) their families if they are caught. There is nothing ambiguous about that, and those rules are in effect no matter where they live in the US until they are 21.
After that intro we started to watch some short video clips about marijuana and THC. The 6th grade started a movie called “Marijuana and the Teenage Brain”. This video covers the ongoing research into the permanent negative effects of marijuana on the brains of kids. Here is a link to a preview of the video.
7th Grade – Edible THC Products
The 7th grade started watching a video about edible THC products. In the last number of years, eating THC or marijuana dosed products have become more and more popular. Users might view eating marijuana as a healthier alternative because there is no smoking involved, but eating a drug like THC creates its own set of hazards. Here are some of the highlights we discuss:
- Edible marijuana or “edibles” are food products made with cannabis as an ingredient.
- Smoking or Vaping is an immediate gratification because the user feels the effects of the drug within a few seconds. It takes much longer to feel the effects of a drug after eating it because the drug will slowly be absorbed as it travels through the digestive system. As a result, users may have different reactions to the same drug depending on how they use it.
- THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana,
is metabolized differently by the body when it is eaten as compared to smoked and is actual a more potent compound when eaten.
- Edible THC takes a longer time to affect the brain (late onset); and it is notoriously difficult to control the dose, leading to easier THC intoxication and overdose.
- Many labels for THC content are undependable regarding dosage standards and knowing what is in the package.
- THC content is extremely hard to quantify. Every batch is different. Every user reacts differently due to body size, amount of other food in the stomach, and varied response to THC.
- THC use impacts the still-developing teenage brain differently than it impacts an adult’s brain. The teen brain is particularly vulnerable to adverse developmental changes and higher rates of addiction related to THC use.
- Edibles have been linked to paranoid behavior leading to injury and death.
- We discuss real stories of teens that have experienced serious consequences as a result of using edible marijuana.
I think its important to talk to the kids about marijuana in depth at least once a year, and the presentation builds on the material from the previous year. As always, please talk to your kids about their experiences and interactions with their peers. Every one of them will be making choices (such as whether or not to try drugs like THC) as they progress through middle school and high school. The more guidance they get from parents and the more fore-thought they put into these decisions, the more prepared they will be to make decisions for themselves. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at email@example.com.