MONTE VISTA— The Rio Grande Prevention Partners Coalition and Community Board met last Tuesday afternoon for their monthly meeting at the Monte Vista Information Center. Rachael Torres’ fourth grade class from Bill Metz Elementary attended the meeting to present a prevention project to the coalition, a skit they researched and wrote.
Torres proudly explained to the coalition how the class tackled their first research project, overcoming the limited number of Chromebooks they shared and working around several weeks of testing to complete research on substances and their side effects. The project honed their note-taking skills, something that isn’t heavily emphasized until later on students’ education, typically in the fifth grade. Torres also stated that she was very happy to have the support of the students’ families on the project; she was initially concerned about parents of fourth graders being willing to allow their students to research substances, but she received 100 percent of the consent forms back, “which is awesome.” Students families also have reported that they have begun applying the information and concepts that they’ve learned to their home lives as well, beginning open dialogues about tobacco use and its negative health effects. The project included a board with facts about opiate use, a presentation about marijuana use and a skit about the dangers of tobacco use. The students also created a flyer about tobacco facts was was distributed to all of the RGPP Coalition members in attendance. The flyer was researched and made by Darrien, Josh, Hunter, Caleb and Layla.
Alessa introduced the class project which began with Jacob, Sergio and another student reading facts about marijuana and how THC alters brain function and the negative side effects of its use, including “bad decision making, concentration, and memory and brain development loss.” They displayed a picture with MRI scans of brains of a user and non-user of marijuana. Julian then discussed some of what the students learned about the harmful effects of alcohol, tobacco, opiates and other substances, before introducing their skit.
Six students stood at a bus stop discussing the math test they would be taking that day when one found a cigarette on the ground and decided to throw it away. The students discussed facts about tobacco and anecdotes about negative side effects of cigarette use, before a prop school bus entered to take them to school. Torres explained that the skit, although fiction, was not far from reality for the students, as a fourth grade student did find an alcohol shooter at a bus stop and students have found cigarette butts on the playground before, which all of the students properly reported and disposed of.
The prevention coalition asked the students what they learned from their research that most stuck with them and what they enjoyed about doing the project. Jacob pointed out that he was surprised that “people spend over $10,000 a year on tobacco.” Mya enjoyed most of the research process, which Caleb added he also enjoyed because he liked doing the research in groups. Amethyst said “it’s important to learn how it [drugs] affects people and how to prevent it.” Dustin added “prevention helps people not do drugs, drink and smoke.” Rio Grande County Public Health Director Emily Brown asked the students how they could get more information to their peers, and several had suggestions. Kiera suggested making a video; Caleb suggested doing their skit at their year-end assemblies, and Jacob suggested going from classroom to classroom performing their skit.
Michelle Romero, counselor at Del Norte Schools, asked the students which type of research was their favorite, which also received a variety of answers. Jimena enjoyed “lots of reading.” Sergio watched a video that displayed several statistics he found especially informative and Riley added that it was very fun to do research and “it wasn’t very hard.”
The class will present the same skit to the Monte Vista School Board, as well as to city council. A video of Tuesday’s presentation can be found on the Rio Grande Prevention Partners Facebook page.
The remainder of the coalition meeting was dedicated to completing more of the second module of the Communities that Care program. This module established work groups to complete the specific tasks necessary to developing prevention programs, including Risk & Protective Factor Assessment, Community Outreach & Public Relations, Youth Involvement, Resource Management & Evaluation, Funding and Community Board Maintenance.
Brown also announced that at the last Interagency Oversight Group (IOG) meeting, they had elected to merge into the Key Leader Board, as the IOG already includes most of the leadership from the same youth-serving systems and resources, including the school superintendents, the department of social services, public health, probation and the Center for Restorative programs. The merger eliminates redundancy for many of the IOG/Key Leader Board members and will help coordinate resources and knowledge for the same prevention goals.