Saturday, January 16, 2010

Interactive Activities: ATOD Unit (Part One)

The ATOD (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs) Unit is my favorite to teach. I could easily spend an entire course just on this, but unfortunately I am not able to do so! Today's post deals with tobacco education in my classroom.

Tobacco education may be the first thing (besides sex ed) that comes to mind when someone hears the term, "health class." There are many substance-abuse programs out there. Perhaps the most famous, D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), is surrounded by controversy. A meta-analysis by Ennett et al. generally found that the short term effectiveness of DARE was less than other, interactive prevention programs. However, I only skimmed the well-known article and they do find some positives for the program as well.

Our school district uses a curriculum component from The Michigan Model for Health entitled, "The Power is Your to Be Tobacco Free" in seventh grade. The curriculum focuses on teaching students the skills they need to stay away from tobacco, make decisions to protect themselves and others from tobacco, and how tobacco can harm their bodies. It doesn't come with a lot of the "facts," so we supplement.

Below I've outlined two sample activities that I've used in my classroom during parts of our tobacco unit. I'll have another post later this week with a second set. I adapted a lot of these from other sources. After all, the best teachers are sometimes the best stealers! As an aside, I make sure that I never say smoking is "stupid" or anything along those lines in order to remain sensitive to students who have family members who smoke. One main objective of my job is to give the students the tools they need to make healthy, positive decisions. Ideally, it helps promote behavior change too. If adults want to smoke, then that is their educated choice (presumably).

During my lesson on smoking's effect on the body, each student has a worksheet with fill ins, charts, and blank sections. They write in information I have on a PowerPoint as I go through each effect.

Is Your Money Up in Smoke? (Homework Activity) Click here for a PDF of the assignment.
The cost of a smoking habit is expensive. As a homework assignment, I have the students research the local price of one pack of cigarettes. Students may ask an adult, use the internet, or look for prices at local stores/gas stations. After they find the price, they do some math to determine how much a person who smokes one pack a day spends on cigarettes for a year and ten years.

Students then "go shopping." They find out what they could spend all that money on. Some students make the argument that all of the money spent on cigarettes could be spend on issues such as education or world hunger. A post-homework reflection could be added, but I choose to use a discussion instead. Some students will mention that for people who smoke more than one pack a day, the cost would be far more expensive.

Extension: Compare the cost of a pack of cigarettes in different regions of the country, such as in New York City where tobacco taxes are very high. We could then discuss that in NYC's situation, smoking has decreased dramatically (a blog entry on this last link will be forthcoming if I can find more up-to-date data, especially after their controversial ad from last year; I used that in class last year). You could also have students graph differences based on location, which ties in cross-curricula activities with geography and math. However, in my opinion this is spending too much time on a very small aspect of the tobacco curriculum. The Michigan Model has this as an in-class, teacher-led activity. I choose to do it differently.

Cilia "Volleyball!"
Adapted from "Cilia Volleyball" in Activities That Teach by Tom Jackson
Cigarette smoke greatly affects the cilia in a smoker's lungs. Cilia are tiny, hair-like structures who have the job of sweeping foreign material such as mucus, dirt, and other harmful material out of the lungs. Cigarette smoke damages the cilia, and as a result there's often a buildup of mucus in the lungs. This results in the body's next method of removing gunk from the lungs of a smoker: smoker's hack.

This activity involves blowing up balloons before class. Because of my classroom setup, I blow up about eight. I label each one "Mucus" with Sharpie beforehand. After I talk about what I just mentioned and smoker's hack, I take out my balloons. I divide my class into thirds (I have three sections of two columns, with a space between sections), and have them demonstrate being cilia. I usually do this first by waving my arms and hands like in the "wave" seen at numerous sporting events. I get into it; it's more fun that way!

After the students get the hang of this, I have one third of the room do the wave. The front of the room acts as deep in the lungs, and I have a student stand behind the last row to represent the mouth (complete with hacking sound effect). Then, I drop the balloons, and as a result of the wave motion, the balloons find their way through the rows and out the mouth. I explain that this is a normal, healthy lung; when there is mucus and other gunk the cilia are able to expel it.

Next, I go to the middle of the room. I do the same thing this time around, but now I select a small number (maybe three out of nine or ten in the section) to sit on their hands. They're not allowed to touch the balloons in any way. This group tries to expel all the "mucus" and is usually pretty successful, but not fully. Then, I go to the last group. This time, I make sure that all the students except one in the front and one in the back sit on their hands. Usually, none of the "mucus" goes anywhere.

After this demonstration I explain that the last group represents the lungs of a habitual smoker. After they were able to experience being cilia in the lungs, having a discussion about the activity is very important. Some students don't make the connection right away, so I use images of cilia in the lungs to further explain their role in the body.

NOTE: Tom Jackson, who created this activity, has the balloons represent particles of smoke/tar that pass into the lungs. His activity is slightly different; mine was adapted to fit the space of my small classroom.

I was planning on documenting some more activities in this post, but I feel that I have rambled on long enough! As always, please feel free to comment or e-mail with questions, comments, or concerns.

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