I was the St Bede School on Monday, and it was fun to hear where the kids went for the Easter Holiday vacation. They were still a little antsy, but very well behaved over all. Here is what we talked about:
4th Grade: Don’t Let Your Dreams Go Up In Smoke
I talked to the 4th grade about marijuana and THC. I spent the first part of class answering questions that immediately popped into the kids head regarding what they have heard about marijuana and THC. After that I had the kids read a story about a boy that started using THC in middle school and the problems that caused him in school and sports. Some of the points emphasized were:
- Marijuana is not a vitamin and its not a benign food.
- Marijuana is a plant that contains the drug THC.
- THC makes your heart beat faster and affects balance, vision and coordination, reaction time and motivation.
- THC makes it hard to remember things and negatively impacts learning.
- Smoking/vaping THC is just as bad for your lungs as smoking/vaping tobacco.
Even though the 4th graders (thankfully) don’t know a lot about marijuana at this young age, almost all of them had heard of it. This 4th grade lesson is the first of many that I have with the kids to help them understand the dangers of using THC while their bodies and brains are still developing.
5th Grade – Peer Pressure
I spent my time with the 5th grade talking about various peer pressure strategies. First we identified examples of peer pressure by going through a couple of hypothetical situations involving some mild peer pressure (see picture), and then we talked about more serious situations. After that, talked about some strategies that can be used to deal with peer pressure.
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
I tried to bring each strategy to life by giving some colorful examples. If the kids employ these tactics when they are peer pressured or influenced, they will be in a better position to make good decisions. We finished the class by going through some more scenarios (see picture) and then letting the kids use the strategies to solve the problem.
6th Grade – Alcohol
The first question I asked was how many kids knew that alcohol was a drug. Many of the kids 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 we read through a worksheet about the effects of alcohol on balance, vision, speech, reaction time, and decision making.
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. I also shared some relevant stories from my time working on patrol.
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 Grade – Decision Making
First, I handed out a sheet with some pointers on making good decisions. I didn’t make this stuff up myself; this wisdom goes all the way back to the Greek philosopher Aristotle (see picture).
After that, the kids broke up into groups and played a game using a sheet of scenarios. There are 12 situations for them to discuss. The kids take turns reading the scenarios, and then they reveal their answers Rock, Paper, Scissors style with the Yes, No and Maybe cards. 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 friend asks you to help them shoplift; do you do it?
- You hear a rumor that your boyfriend/girlfriend is cheating on you. Do you break up with them?
- You find a vape device in your brother’s room; do you tell?
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.
Kids this age 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.