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Helping Kids Say No to Drugs: A Nonprofit Organization Provides Hope

Dr. Katie Klinger

STEM & Digital Equity Grantwriter & Education Technology Integration Expert
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Over the years, we have seen drug abuse spread throughout our schools, even at the elementary school level. As communities, we have made concentrated efforts to resolve this problem. Many education experts and law-enforcement officials agree that prevention -- through education and community action -- is the key to reducing the incidence of drug abuse, but initial attempts by educational institutions to deter drug use by simply providing information on the subject have failed.

The role legal or illegal drugs play in a person's life is partly determined by his or her life-skill level. However, the primary responsibility for the development of these skills has shifted from the family to the school.

A decade ago, the nonprofit organization Telesis, in San Diego, California, developed a series of K-12 programs to meet the needs of school districts struggling to provide high-quality curricula on topics such as creating a safe and drug-free school, peer counseling, character education, and life skills/career design. These programs were implemented successfully in California and Washington with glowing feedback from teachers, parents, and administrators. Then Telesis took a rest, thinking it had given communities the tools necessary to address these issues.

However, the problems have only increased. In response to this challenge in our schools, Telesis is once again offering these programs, now updated and available online with resources. This fall, charter schools such as the Myron B. Thompson Academy, in Honolulu, Hawaii, will be the first to beta test these revised programs while Telesis collects data for evidence-based research.

Each program in the series comes with a teacher manual, an integration matrix with major areas of emphasis, and a student workbook in .pdf format, all to be used as primary or supplemental materials to existing programs.

One of the programs in this comprehensive series, That's Life, addresses drug education for children at all grade levels and includes an evaluation scalable for school districts. An additional benefit of all of the programs is a one-day professional-development workshop for teachers, parents, and administrators.

The Kids Care program shares methods for creating a nurturing environment in the classroom. The material is grade-level specific and meets students' needs via small-group and large-group interaction as students participate in role-playing, brainstorming, and sharing. The curriculum addresses the importance of, and ways to improve, social skills with grade-appropriate concepts for grades preK-6.

The Teens Care component (part of the Kids Care program), for grades 7-12, focuses on grade-appropriate concepts such as learning to respectfully meet one's own needs, as well as relationships, conflict resolution, how to cope with stress, good decision-making practices, and understanding responsibility.

That's Life is derived from prior research on what children are likely to know at each grade level. Instructional time is realistic because activities were selected based on what children need to know rather than what is nice for them to know. It contains a recognizable no-drug-use theme throughout with a no-nonsense approach to classroom facilitation that requires little preparation. Main focus areas are on life skills, wellness, personal and family health, and environmental and community health.

The curriculum is grade specific, parent interactive, and designed for infusion with a suggested reading list. A program to evaluate accrued knowledge, change in attitude, and behavioral outcomes, and assessment of environmental factors, also accompanies this health- and language-arts-based curriculum.

Theories regarding specific causes of drug abuse are varied. One conclusion maintains there is no single cause of drug use or abuse; rather, there are many factors. Common themes in studies about adolescent drug use include low self-esteem, boredom, and peer pressure. These results have led to the development of Telesis's Peer Counseling program, which emphasizes self-understanding, communication, interpersonal relationships, group dynamics, peer leadership, decision making, counseling, and pharmacology. The program helps students develop a positive self-image so they can choose healthy alternatives in life rather than destructive ones.

Finally, in Telesis's Design Your Own Life program, teens are encouraged to think about aspects of life, including personal values, vital statistics, employment, and preparing and saving for college. As mentioned earlier, a charter school in Hawaii will participate in the beta test by first using its current career-skills and technical-skills curricula for a semester and then trying the Design Your Own Life program during the second semester. The students will print out each program section as they go through the class and create a book they can later refer to in college or when job prospecting.

The diversity of these programs demonstrates years of careful research and development. We are fortunate that people at nonprofit organizations continue to care so deeply about the future of our children and communities. Our responsibility now is to use these tools to strengthen that commitment.

Over the coming months, I'll report on the pilot schools' progress with the programs at each grade level and discuss candidly what the teachers, parents, and administrators believe works or doesn't work. If you know of a school that may be interested in beta testing these programs within the next year, please respond to this blog so I can relay your information to Telesis for consideration.

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Dr. Katie Klinger

STEM & Digital Equity Grantwriter & Education Technology Integration Expert

Comments (16) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

carol smith's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

that is a good campaign against drugs.drugs bring more harm than good.let us not take that direction.

carol smith
Florida Drug Rehab

Tiffany Hatcher's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

The programs discussed here hit on some key points. One important thing to consider when teaching students about drug abuse is that the material has to not only be age appropriate, but it has to be intriguing. When the topic of drugs or bullying comes up, I notice that kids start to snicker and think it's funny. For this reason, the teacher has to make the material engaging and appropriate. Students who explore using drugs usually do so for a reason. The programs that Katie has described get the students involved in dialogging with each other. I work in a school that has high risk for students to become involved in drugs and bullying. We use a program called Second Step that sounds similar to the program That's Life. There is a short video to watch and then a discussion follows. Some days the students act out roles and other days they do group activities and share them with the class. The point of these types of programs is to give the students the tools to know how to say no to drugs and why they should say no. Some kids know the life of drugs at a young age and can easily be brought in to that world. As an elementary teacher, I feel a strong responsibility to expose these children to what a better life can look like. As Katie stated, kids start experimenting with drugs because they have low self-esteem, or their bored, or they are being pressured by their peers. The programs that she discussed will help students understand the real dangers that come with a lifestyle of drugs as well as proving ways to help them to make better decisions for themselves.

Drug Treatment Centers's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I'm glad that this is the new approach. Anyone remember the old school based education on drugs? Never worked. If anything they taught you what drugs to do, and which ones to avoid. (Trust me I was one of those kids.) As an adult who works in the field, I honestly think that this could work.

Best of Luck,
Rick Pearson

Benji's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Great post by Katie. Parents always need to periodically check on the activities of their kids and any irregular behavior in attitude or health should be taken serious on priority basis. While I also recommend limits and rules are crucial for the productive development of youth. I hope these few suggestions might help . So parents need to equip themselves with enough education and skill to cater the kids and take appropriate measures on problematic issues with kids.

sagar's picture

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Virginia Dusseau MA's picture

Because of the link between family behaviors (adults and siblings) drug abuse in children, I have found the Drug Coloring Book for Kids a helpful anti drug education and counseling tool in my practice.

mautzu's picture

the drug addiction problem affect people of all ages allover the world, and is a good thing to have drug rehab center just like Drug Rehab San Jose where people can get the help they need to pass the addiction problem

amberu's picture

These last few years , information programs and people getting involved has decreased the numbers of new addicts per year quite a bit and many programs are registering a lot of success in keeping former addicts clean.

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