I had my final day in class at St Bede for the year (although I will be back in June for some fun demonstrations). 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
- Walking Away
- Acting like a Broken Record (repeatedly saying No)
- Making an Excuse (which every kid is good at, right?)
- Coming up with A Better Idea
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 class by making a “Decision Making” cube (a paper 6 sided die), and the kids rolled their cubes for different scenarios that I read to the class.
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 – RX Drugs
During my last visit in class with the 6th Grade, I talked about prescription drugs and prescription drug abuse. We live in a culture where all sorts of pills are available to any person that asks for them, and many of our homes are filled with all sorts of medications that could be dangerous if used improperly.
- Medical experts identify the dangers of taking any medicines not specifically prescribed for you. They compare the abuse level to that of hard drugs like cocaine and heroin, and note that this new addiction has evolved quite rapidly.
- Prescription drugs are defined as drugs manufactured to treat an illness or pain that are prescribed by a doctor and used by a patient under a doctor’s care. The most commonly abused prescription drugs come from these categories:
- Opiates (e.g., Vicodin®, Percocet®) are time-released drugs that block pain receptors in the brain. When crushed, they are as potent as heroin.
- Benzodiazepines (e.g., sleep aids and anti-anxiety pills like Xanax® and Valium®): “The kids use it for any excuse… ‘I broke up with my boyfriend, I flunked a test… I think I’ll take a Xanax®,’” Narcotics Educator Thomas Janette says of the many reasons these drugs are taken and abused by teens. These drugs are dangerous enough abused on their own, and are downright deadly when combined with other drugs.
- CNS Stimulants (e.g., Ritalin®) are used to combat narcolepsy and ADHD by stimulating the central nervous system (CNS), but can be abused in the same manner as methamphetamine and other illegal stimulants.
- We discuss drug tolerance or how the sensation of the drug gradually weakens the more the drug is used. If they are addicted or abusing the drug (trying to get high), they need to increase the amount of the drug they use to get the feeling they want. As the amount increases, so does the danger of an overdose.
- We discuss drug withdrawal, and how all drugs that people use to get high may potentially make them feel sick and/or depressed when they stop using the drug. The withdrawal discourages the drug user from quitting and motivates continued use.
- We also talk about the danger of mixing drugs of any kind and how drug mixing can exponentially increase the danger of using drugs. We also talk about recent news stories about drug abuse.
- I also talk to the kids about my experiences involving drug abuse during my time on patrol in Malibu, Calabasas, Agoura and Westlake Village.
7th 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 I had the kids make their own personal list for the above questions and I challenged them to hold themselves and their friends to those standards. We all need to evaluate our relationships from time to time and assess if we are healthy relationships or if we have ended up in situations that are not good for us. If the kids can take a little time to think about these questions from time to time, they will probably make better decisions overall, and they will have better relationships throughout their lives.