In hopes of finding a program that would adequately replace Drugs Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.), Lincoln County Cooperative Extension agents worked to train area educators last month in a new curriculum to battle substance abuse and other issues today’s youth face regularly.
Previously, D.A.R.E. was the primary informative course designed to educate about drug abuse, but did not receive funding this year. Health Rocks!/Try It (Teens Reaching Youth through Innovative Teams) is a set of lessons designed for children ages 8 to 16 and their educators, some of whom were instructed by county Extension agents recently, focusing on four core components — belonging, mastery, independence and generosity.
The target of the teachers’ training was focused around the 8- to 12-year-old bracket, as the instructors learned to show their students how to avoid “risky behaviors” and environments, while strengthening their critical thinking and decision-making skills.
During the fast-paced breakdown of the lessons, educators from Pumpkin Center Intermediate, G.E. Massey Elementary and Lincoln Charter schools were in attendance, along with teen participants who also learned how to facilitate the information through hands-on activities, 4-H Youth Development Associate Fran Senters said.
“We feel that there is a large gap in our curriculum that we find to be vital for our student’s particular age group,” said Jennifer Elliott, fifth grade Language Arts Teacher at Lincoln Charter School-Denver. “As they move into middle school, they will be put in various situations to make life choices; we were looking for a program that addressed these topics.”
The day-long training course was broken into nine facets, covering topics that define which types of drugs are legal or illegal, how to identify stressful factors in the lives of their students, understanding addiction, and stressing the importance of the roles of the students’ peers, family members and friends, amongst other topics relating to abstaining from drugs.
Each of the chapters ended with a summary handout that instructors can give to children to bring home, as well as a knowledge check to ensure that participants understand the information that was covered.
Elliott appreciated the chance she was given to view the material through a student’s perspective, to better learn how to effectively communicate it to youth later. She hopes to be able to incorporate her new tools into her lessons in the spring. At the end of the session, a cumulative exam was given, covering material learned from the beginning to the end of the day.
“The goal is to give youth the tools to make knowledgeable decisions about tobacco, alcohol and drug use, and for them to understand the consequences of their choices,” Senters told the Times-News on Monday.
The curriculum was created by The National 4-H Council, who partnered with the Cooperative Extension System of Land-Grant Universities and Colleges, and was released for use in communities in 2007.
Though there are currently no future Health Rocks! courses on the Extension’s calendar, Senters expressed interest in hosting more in the future, if at least five people enroll.
Data from a 2011 4-H survey reflected over 90 percent of students who were asked gained knowledge about tobacco use and other risky behaviors, and learned resistance skills, among other approaches they were taught from their instructors and through their involvement with the program. For more information, call (704) 736-8452.