It was great to be back at Canyon Springs for another year. Here is what we talked about for my first lesson:
4th Grade – Intro to Deputy Jake
I started by handing out the materials that the kids will need for the year: a STAR folder and a name card.
After passing out the materials, I talked to the 4th Grade about my life before becoming a deputy, my path to joining the Sheriff’s Department and the different assignments that I’ve worked. I described my experience in the academy, my first assignment working in the jail (along with some pictures), my time as a bailiff in a courthouse and the time I spent out on patrol in the Lost Hills Station area. I also talked about my education at UCLA and my involvement with the LA Grizzlies (the LASD Football Team).
The kids had a ton of questions, like:
- “Is that a real gun?”
- “Have you ever been in a car chase?”
- “Do you have a taser?”
- “Have you ever had an inmate escape?”
- “What’s the food like in jail?”
- “Do you like donuts?”
I tried to get through as many questions as possible. This Q&A gives the kids a chance to get to know me, and it gets the “cop” questions out of the way so we can better focus on a topic the next time I visit.
5th Grade – Time to Make a Good Decision
My first day in class with the 5th Grade was spent talking about decision making. The kids broke up into groups and played a game using scenario cards. There are 12 cards (an example is pictured below); the kids take turns reading the cards and then they reveal their answers Rock, Paper, Scissors style with the Yes, No and Maybe cards. I’m always very thankful for the LCUSD setup with the picnic tables outside the classrooms because the discussions get loud and the tables outside helps to spread the kids out a bit.
Some of the themes and topics we covered include:
- You have a chance to cheat; what do you do?
- A friend tells you a secret; do you tell?
- You find a wallet with money and an ID; do you try to return it?
- Your mom tells you to do your homework and read for a specific amount of time, but you want to watch TV; do you obey mom’s orders?
- You see a student doing something dangerous at school; do you tell a teacher?
- You break something at your friend’s house and they get blamed; do you speak up?
The kids really got into it, and we finished the class by talking about some of the scenarios as a group. I emphasized that our decisions shape who we are and how others see us; I want the kids to understand that having integrity and doing the right thing is a habit that needs to be ingrained just like brushing your teeth and eating healthy.
Almost all 5th graders have a good handle on what is right and what is wrong when it comes to these types of decisions. However, kids that age (and sometimes adults too) would rather come up with elaborate reasons to justify doing what’s wrong instead of just keeping it simple and doing what’s right.
Elementary school students of all ages do multiple craft projects where students declare their self image and the things they like (for example, the flower petal crafts pictured above). Students describe themselves as “fun”, “athletic”, “hard-working” and all sorts of other positive labels. I point out to the kids that I’ve never seen one of these crafts where a kid described themselves as “dishonest” or “lazy” or as a “cheater”, but there are still kids that act that way. However we think of ourselves, its important that the choices we make match up with the person we think we are. We can declare whatever we want about ourselves, but our actions tell those around what to believe.
6th Grade – Drug Advertising
My time with the 6th Grade was spent talking about the ways drugs have been marketed and sold over the years has changed. Fifty years ago, there weren’t a lot of rules regarding how drugs were marketed or presented in the media, and the tobacco companies took full advantage of that with advertisements like these:
As the research about the dangers of tobacco became more refined, it became clear that the tobacco companies were advertising in an unethical and dangerous manner, especially in regards to children. As a result, strict laws were passed to restrict how and when tobacco could be advertised. Now the ads look more like this:
Regardless of the content of the ad, there are large warning labels on all of these tobacco products. However, relying on the law to maintain guidelines on issues like this is problematic because these types of laws are often reactionary (only coming after the problem is established). Alcohol is also extremely dangerous if abused (especially for kids), but the restrictions on alcohol advertising are minuscule compared to tobacco (just turn on a random sporting event to see the difference). For example, compare the warning on this ad for an alcoholic soda (certainly something that would qualify as entry level booze for a teenager) to a warning on a chewing tobacco ad:
Alcohol and tobacco have been legal (with a small exception in the 1920’s) for all of US history, and we are still trying to figure out the proper regulations. What about the new stuff? Vaping and e-cigarettes were invented in the last decade, and after a century of prohibition, marijuana is slowly becoming legalized across America. We are still figuring out how to deal with these new options for recreational drug use for adults, but in the meantime the messages being sent to kids are confusing and dangerous. I emphasized to the students that any ad they see for a vape device or some sort of marijuana/THC product is just that: an advertisement trying to sell them something.
We are just starting to see changes in regulations for vaping and marijuana ads, and at this point the long term effects (especially for children) are still being studied. What we do know is that teen use of marijuana and other THC products is harmful to children, and the same can be said for nicotine (from smoking or vaping). With all that in mind, I reminded the kids that they should look at any advertisement with the idea of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).