Skip to Content

Dealing with Boredom As an Excuse

Drug Prevention Activities That Work

I know a lot about drugs. Besides 13 years of teaching, I have also served as drug prevention educator for Ketchikan, Alaska, spreading the word -- in the schools and throughout the community -- about the slavery of tobacco addiction, the widespread destruction of alcohol, the extreme danger of inhalants, the unforeseen consequences of marijuana, the terrible addiction of oxycodone (a prescription pain reliever), the horrors of methamphetamine, and more.

I could spout facts and tell stories that would keep you awake at night. But instead, I'll share with you (in this and upcoming articles) four original drug prevention activities that really work. These are lessons that kids relate to and respond to with enthusiasm. Equally important, these activities incorporate the guidelines for effective drug education set forth by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Begin with What They Know

How do you determine which drugs you should address with your class? Let the kids tell you. Ask the students, "What drugs have you heard of?" Whatever they answer, those are the drugs that you need to cover.

Write the names of these drugs on the board in categories, explaining how they are related to each other (e.g., chew, cigarettes, and cigars are all Tobacco). Give a little background about each one. Maybe draw a sketch next to each.

When you begin with what students know, it helps students make connections with and build on their prior knowledge. And it can also help you answer parents' concerns, for example, when Courtney's mom calls to find out why she was learning about the hazards of marijuana in first grade. ("As a matter of fact, two of the children in the class told us that their parents smoke marijuana at home.") Oh.

What happens if a student names a drug you have never heard of? (Blunt, tanks, D's, yellow jackets, and a whole lot more.) No problem. Even keeping up-to-date on the latest drug information available, I've run into some names I had never heard of. So matter-of-factly ask the student about the drug, and categorize it with the others on the board. Keep it light. I freely admit to students that I don't know everything about drugs, and I'm glad I don't.

So, there you have it. With the students leading the way, you can be reasonably certain that your instruction is developmentally centered on what your students need to learn and when they need to learn it. 

Dealing with Boredom as an Excuse

ACTIVITY: No Need for Drugs

One of the worst, and most frequently heard, excuses for doing drugs is boredom. When I'm working in a classroom and I hear, "There’s nothing else to do," I respond, "Oh, yeah? I bet we can think of 100 good things to do in the next ten minutes."

I set the timer, and the wonderful barrage begins. Students call out their ideas, and I furiously list the responses on the board. Every time I have conducted this activity, the students and I have succeeded in thinking of at least 100 good things to do within ten minutes.

After the timer dings, we look at the list and talk about the ideas. We say which activities we like to do and which activities we have never tried before but might like to try. Students get to know each other through this process, and learn how other students spend their time. Looking at the list opens up new avenues of thought for students whose lives have thus far revolved mostly around television, music, and video games.

I've noticed kids seem to be proud of the list, so I type it up in colorful lettering, and make it into a bookmark. I've often thought the list would make a nice refrigerator magnet, designed by kids and distributed throughout the community as summer vacation approaches. Perhaps a business would sponsor the cost.

Here are some pretty generic ideas to spark your imagination:

skateboarding• bowling• camping• basketball• dancing to music• build a fort• build a skateboard ramp• soccer• sew• sailing• sleep• fish• bike• baby-sit• canoe• draw• pick berries• wrestle• racquet ball• take a class• have a carwash• weave• do a science experiment• cook dinner• sled• go to the lake• play drums• catch• clean house• take photos• board games• volleyball• go to the movies• go to the library• call somebody• read• make a birdfeeder• dam a stream• carve• golf• plant flowers• practice music• volunteer• tennis• camps• create a new recipe• play with pet• email• badminton• offer to walk dogs• dirt bike• makeovers• Frisbee• collect rocks• scouts• visit elderly• swim• football• roller blade• write a story• gymnastics• rock climbing• softball• ballet• archery• puppets• build a raft• ask questions• hunt• make sandcastles• ride the bus• kites• use a magnifying glass• create a Web site• watercolor• write a letter• stretch• paint something• cleaning• make a scrapbook•  walk• make a video• apply for a job• aerobics• rock climbing• sing with the radio• learn to play guitar• write a poem• write a rap• meditate• plan a trip• research something on the Internet• practice instrument• draw a map of town• yoga• examine stuff under a microscope• diary• work with clay• jump rope• chess• lift weights• draw cartoons• ask someone to teach you something• feed birds• play music• look through photo albums• read in bed•

In case you're worried that your students might not be up to the challenge, don't be. The students here in Ketchikan live on a mostly uninhabited island. It rains here more than in any other city in North America. I'm pretty sure your students will be able to come up with at least as many activities as mine.  (Don't think there aren't drugs here though.)

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

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

» Call In the Reinforcements -- Using older students who do not use drugs as role models. 

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