I was at OLM on Tuesday, and it was a fun start to the day playing catch with Coach and the 5th/6th grades. After that, I got to work. 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 – Impromptu Q & A
I walked in to the 6th grade expecting to talk about accountability and decision making, but we got sidetracked with some very good questions from the students right off the bat. We ended up reviewing and clarifying topics that we have talked about in the past including the hazards of abusing drugs or using drugs irresponsibly as a kid, the criminal justice system, peer pressure, goals and everything in between. We’ll get to that other lesson next time.
7th/8th Grade – Inhalants
The 7th Grade was on assignment somewhere else, so I talked inhalants with just the 8th Grade. You hear jokes about kids sniffing glue all the time, and you even see funny portrayals of inhalant abuse on TV, but the reality of kids and chemical fumes is actually quite scary.
During the class we screened a couple segments from the Truth About Drugs series. These short 5 minute videos are testimonies from people who found themselves caught up in a cycle of drug abuse. According to the video:
“Inhalants” refers to the vapors from toxic substances which are inhaled to reach a quick high. Of more than 1,000 household and other common products that could be abused as inhalants, most often used are shoe polish, glue, toluene,1 gasoline, lighter fluid, nitrous oxide2 or “whippets,” spray paint, correction fluid, cleaning fluid, amyl nitrite3 or “poppers,” locker room deodorizers or “rush,” and lacquer thinner or other paint solvents.
Most of these produce effects similar to anesthetics, which slow down the body’s functions. After an initial high and loss of inhibition comes drowsiness, light-headedness and agitation.
The chemicals are rapidly absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream and quickly reach the brain and other organs, sometimes causing irreversible physical and mental damage.
After screening the video we talked about the damaging effects inhalants can cause to the body and we made distinctions between using your nose to smell things normally and what crossing over the line means. Then we watched another short video story about a boy named Wade that died from inhalant use. Its a very emotional video in which Wade’s father (who happens to be a medical doctor) talks about the day his son passed away.
Finally, I shared the story of Aria Doherty with the class. Aria, a 13 year old student at Nobel Middle School in Northridge, died using inhalants a few years ago. She was an involved student with no history of drug experimentation, but her sister found her in her room after school one night. Its a hard story to hear, but I want to make sure all of the kids understand how dangerous inhalants are.
Writing with a sharpie or painting your nails isn’t dangerous if you are using the products as they are intended, but using chemicals to try to get high is about as bad of a risk that you can take.