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Call In the Reinforcements

Drug Prevention Activities That Work

From the time they wake up in the morning, to the time they go to sleep at night, your students are exposed to some subtle and some not-so-subtle drug messages through TV, magazines, movies, peers, music, and sometimes Mom and Dad. It is vitally important that students also hear the real truth about drugs from more than you.

ACTIVITY: The Use of Role Models in Drug Prevention


Believe it or not, when it comes to drugs, MTV might be on your side. Producers Arnold Shapiro and Allison Grodner have created award-winning videos for the middle and high school levels that have been shown nationally on MTV. Their "The Teen Files" and "Truth About…" video series share the honest truth about drugs, and really connect with kids. These videos are the most powerful anti-drug tools I have found (see link below). The cost is about $150 each.

Health Promotion Videos

Health promotion videos can provide additional testimony, and can be terrific   reinforcers of your anti-drug message, but preview them warily. (Most video companies will let you preview the videos for 30 days for free.) Not all of them are as brilliantly directed as Shapiro and Grodner's videos. Some drug prevention videos are exceedingly dull and will hurt your case. Some are stunning in special effects, but actually seem to promote the drugs. While health promotion videos usually contain little that would be in any way objectionable to parents, it is wise to send home a notification in advance of the showing, allowing parents to preview them if they wish.

Older Kids

Even though rich and famous Hollywood stars and bigger-than-life sports idols are huge role models for our kids, the most significant role model for kids is still kids. What the older kids do, the younger kids want to do. What the older kids find acceptable, the younger kids treat as normal.

I found a simple and effective way to use the influence of older students to advantage. I turned my middle school students loose after school with digital cameras and notebooks to take photos of high school students who were willing to speak a few words against drugs. After-school activities guaranteed us a good supply of the healthiest, most articulate, and popular students.

My students asked any high school student found walking through the hall for one clear statement about why they didn't use drugs, or why they didn't use a particular drug. Amazingly, most were willing to share, and their responses were often powerful.

I don't use drugs because I respect myself.

I don't want to die young.

I care about my future children.

I've got better things to do than put holes in my brain.

Drugs are a form of slavery.

Besides the quote and photo, my students got the older students' signatures on permission forms allowing us to use their words and photo for educational purposes. We then took the photos, and using a computer photo program, made each into a poster, erasing the background and adding the quote. We hung up the posters in the hall, where anyone walking by couldn't help but see, and we stood back to see what happened.

The results were powerful. Every student in the school was impacted by the words of these respected student athletes, cheerleaders, honors students, and normal kids testifying about why they don't use drugs.

Your students will be hearing plenty of pro-drug messages. So, it is essential that they hear many anti-drug messages as well. Help them find credible sources, especially people they look up to -- to tell the truth about drugs. Then let the role models speak to them about the negative aspects of drug use.

Marya Washington Tyler is a gifted child consultant in Ketchikan, Alaska. She has taught in a one-room school (one year), elementary gifted students K-6 (10 years), and sixth grade (2 years). She is the author of Real Life Math Mysteries, It's Alive!, It's Alive and Kicking, Alien Math, and Extreme Math, all published by Prufrock Press.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NEA or its affiliates.

Other Articles in This Series

» Dealing with Boredom As an Excuse -- Opening the discussion about drugs and helping students focus on activities other than taking drugs.

» Practice Saying No -- Applying the effective anti-drug strategy of practicing drug refusal.

» Turn Them Loose - Let Them Teach -- Setting up a debate about the hazards of taking drugs.