My second to last visit of the year to OLM was on Wednesday; here is what we talked about:
4th Grade – Peer Pressure
I spent my time with the 4th grade introducing various peer pressure strategies. I talked about the concept of peer pressure in the Under Whose Influence lesson (we read a story about a middle school girl that was peer pressured to drink alcohol at a friend’s house), and I followed that discussion up with some specific techniques.
The concepts we talked about were:
- Saying No
- Steering Clear
- Walking Away
- Acting like a Broken Record (repeatedly saying No)
- Making an Excuse (which every kid is good at, right?)
- Stating the Facts (about why its a bad idea)
- Reversing the Peer Pressure
We talked about each strategy and I helped put each in context by giving examples of how to use them.
5th Grade – Gateway Bingo
The 5th Grade also got to play a game: Gateway Bingo. The kids make a 4 x 4 bingo board out of facts about the gateway drugs (see picture) that we have talked about in class this year, and I give away various STAR Program prizes to the winners (everyone wins at least once by the end of class).
Its a nice way to review what we have talked about all year, and its an even better way to give away some prizes.
6th Grade – Alcohol
The first question I asked was how many kids knew that alcohol was a drug. Many of us never think of alcohol as a drug because we always use the phrase “drugs and alcohol”. I also asked the kids how many of them had ever seen either of their parents drinking alcohol at least once. Every time I ask that question 95-100% of the class raise their hands. The fact is that most adults that the kids interact with have at least a little experience with alcohol. It is every adult’s duty to make sure they are drinking responsibly (especially in front of their kids), but there’s also no need for a kid to be worried every time they see their mom or dad have a glass of wine, beer or a cocktail.
Next, I told them that alcohol is in the category of drugs called “depressants” and explained how it differs from the drugs we talked about earlier (THC, which is a hallucinogen, and caffeine, which is a stimulant). Then we talked about the types of alcohol that people drink: beer, wine and hard liquor. Serving sizes and potency may vary among the different types of alcohol, but overindulging in any type of alcohol can lead to severe consequences.
I asked the kids if they had ever seen someone that was intoxicated, and then I took a few minutes to compile the symptoms of an intoxicated person. The list included things like slowed heart rate, slurred speech, loud and obnoxious behavior, wonky eyes, passing out, throwing up, all the way to the most severe consequences of overdose (alcohol poisoning) and death.
We also talked about the types of laws people break that are related to alcohol. Drinking in public or drinking while driving might get someone a ticket, but being intoxicated in public or while driving a car will land them in jail. The kids had a lot of questions regarding their own experiences, so I tried to answer them all. I finished by talking about the different circumstances in which adults may drink and compared them to the generally more dangerous and irresponsible contexts in which teenagers drink. Most adults drink in a perfectly responsible fashion, but some adults ruin their lives with alcohol. However, when underage people drink (usually in secret and/or away from the prying eyes of adults) it is almost exclusively a dangerous situation that leads to bad consequences.
7th/8th Grade – Friends and Frenemies
This time we talked about the value and characteristics of friendship. We started off by filling out a questionnaire about their beliefs on a wide variety of topics (questions like, Agree or Disagree: “A man should always hold the door for a woman” or “I like to camp” or “I think teens should have a curfew”).
After responding to those statements, the students had to go around the room and find other students that disagreed with them. A lot of the students were surprised that many of their friends had different opinions than them (the implication being that even though we may have different opinions we can still be friends and respect each other).
After that, the kids broke into small groups and talked about the following questions:
- What makes a good friend?
- Are there different or additional qualities that make a good boyfriend or girlfriend?
- What are your dealbreakers for a friend or a boyfriend/girlfriend?
Finally the groups went through four scenarios about typical teenage situations:
- You have a friend that you think only hangs out with you because of you cute older sibling…
- Your boyfriend/girlfriend gives you a hard time every time you hang out with your other friends…
- You think you’re good enough to earn an athletic scholarship, but your BFF is kind of a knucklehead and always getting you both into risky situations…
- You’re worried about a test and want to spend some extra time studying, but your friend wants you to blow it off so you can go to the mall…
The kids talked about how they would feel in those situations and how they would handle themselves.
We all need to evaluate our relationships from time to time and assess if we are surrounding ourselves with good relationships or if we have developed any that could be hurting us. Additionally, are we being a good friend back? If the kids can take a little time to think about these questions, they will probably make better decisions overall, and they will have better relationships throughout their lives.