Middle school and high school students get new health curriculum


— This school year, Steamboat Springs high school and middle school are using part of a $40,000 state grant on a new drug and alcohol awareness curriculum for their students.

Routt County Grand Futures Director Kate Elkins spent hours of paperwork and office time applying for the highly-competitive grant. Once Elkins found out the grant went through last school year, a team, which featured a few students, was assembled to settle on a new curriculum.

The group’s overwhelming consensus was an evidence-based curriculum called “Too Good For Drugs.” The basis of the state grant was awarding the money for schools in areas of need. Elkins said because Steamboat and Routt County statistically has a persistent drunk driving issue, implementing evidence-based curriculum at the secondary level was key.

The state "can really see where the need is by statistics,” Elkins said. “We were able to show that, yes, there is a need here. We needed these dollars. They look a lot at that.”

Grand Futures, the leading force behind the grant, is a coalition designed to keep at-risk kids drug and alcohol free, and looks for resources that can spread awareness on the issues.

In past years, the grant — known as the Persistent Drunk Driving Program Grant — was $25,000 and given to more counties and communities. The $15,000 hike to the grant meant less communities would receive it and that it would be much more competitive, Elkins said.

Last year primarily was dedicated to picking out the curriculum. The group narrowed it down to four different lesson plans in March, and once it decided on “Too Good for Drugs” after several meetings, high school health teacher David May was elected to receive training on it in California during the summer.

“The training was definitely interesting in Pasadena because we got to go through all of the lesson plans and curriculum step by step,” May said.

Bits and pieces of the new curriculum were put in motion at the end of last school year, and student input was culled through surveys. Steamboat Springs Middle School health teacher Tracy Bye already has used the new curriculum with her first quarter students, and praised its ability to hit home with the younger generation.

“It went really well. It had a lot of visuals, like visuals of the brain,” Bye said. “Visuals make it a lot more real to kids on what can happen" if they use drugs and alcohol.

This fall, it will be officially implemented at the high school throughout the course of a two- to three-week block.

Because the curriculum is from a state-funded grant, the pre- and post-surveys are Grand Futures’ and the schools’ way of knowing whether or not the curriculum is having an impact. The survey asks basic questions related to the lesson plans, such as “How old were you when you first had alcohol and tobacco products” and “Have you tried these in the past 30 days?”

Bye, who teaches grades sixth through eighth, said it’s a little difficult for her students to understand some of the survey’s straightforward questions on such things as hard drugs. But all parties are confident the new curriculum will have a positive impact on students.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword, because these curriculums are evidenced based, meaning there’s a ton of evidence they work and decrease certain behaviors,” Elkins said.

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll


Scott Wedel 3 years, 6 months ago

" there’s a ton of evidence they work and decrease certain behaviors"

Can anyone provide links to that "ton of evidence"?

I see a whole lot of programs intended to decrease certain behaviors, but not so much evidence that many programs make much of a difference. Looks to me like most programs teach students to give answers saying that some things are bad, but little evidence they affect behavior for a sustained period of time.


Martha D Young 3 years, 6 months ago

Thank you, Scott. I've been wondering for years where the research is that shows that this kind of program makes any difference in drug- and alcohol-use behavior. Remember the DARE program? That was debunked by sound research, and we no longer have it. At age 12 a kid can take a pledge to never use mind-altering substances; at age 16 he or she is partying with friends anyway. Parents make a huge difference.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 6 months ago

Actually, I recall there being research that programs such as DARE were actually harmful. By preaching a zero tolerance attitude requiring zero usage then kids got a message that moderation is the same as excessive usage. And thus, students taught the DARE program were at a higher risk of binge drinking than other kids.

And what research clearly shows is the best long term program which is parents teaching moderation, of letting their teenager have a half glass of wine or beer with dinner, is contrary to the message of these programs and is, contrary to research, taught as being undesirable risky behaviors.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 6 months ago

And according to these people, riding in a car without a seat belt or watching more than 3 hours of TV are risky behaviors.

A cynic might observe that going to school and sitting at a desk for hours is a risky (sedentary) behavior and apparently should be discouraged.


bill schurman 3 years, 6 months ago

Another pile of c..p by the "do-gooders". Good thing my kids are no longer of school age. I agree with "Chris" that is is akin to the failed DARE programs. Please keep these folks out of our school system.


John Fielding 3 years, 6 months ago

There must be an effort to teach the kids about the harmful effects of substance abuse. It is extremely difficult to do so effectively because the minds of the students are far from fully developed, in fact rational contemplations are often deliberately rejected by the immature processes still prevalent.

The logical, rational presentation includes demonstrating that to a degree most substances that stimulate certain bodily (and mental) conditions have the additional effect of suppressing the body's capability to achieve that same condition. Thus taking a substance that induces pleasure makes it more difficult to experience pleasure during a subsequent abstinence from that stimuli.

But what the adolescent mentality retains from this presentation is "it makes you feel good".


Dawne marshall 3 years, 6 months ago

I'm appalled at the comments; trying anything is better than being apathetic towards the cause. Some parents don't seem to be responsible and those that are don't need the programs. These "do-gooders" are do-gooders, would you rather the opposite? At least some people in your neighborhood care and that is a commendable.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 6 months ago

No, trying anything is not better than doing nothing. Programs that stress abstinence or ask students to promise to never use drugs or alcohol have been show to be worse than doing nothing. Those students have been shown to be MORE LIKELY to have risky behaviors because they are less prepared to deal with the real world when absolutes are broken.

It is a real problem when the school's programs undercut or defeat the family's efforts to teach their children moderation. It is well documented that exposing teenagers to alcohol in a controlled manner such as half a glass of wine with dinner greatly reduces binge drinking in later years. Well, if the school teaches the kids that their parents are doing bad by offering a half glass of wine then the schools are damaging our children.


Kate Elkins 3 years, 6 months ago

Hi Scott and Martha - thanks for asking about the "evidence-based" programs. You can review the Too Good for Drugs program and many others on the National Registry of Evidence-Based Progams and Practices. I probably could have made that a bit more clear in the interview. DARE is not evidence-based, but there are MANY other programs that have been peer-reviewed and had multiple studies published on the materials. I'm happy to talk further about the Too Good for Drugs curriculum, which I believe you will find to be very different from the old days of prevention - and it definitely WORKS! National Registry website: http://nrepp.samhsa.gov/


Scott Wedel 3 years, 6 months ago


Well, I just clicked on a random alcohol "intervention". And the "research" was whether kids answered questions saying drinking was bad and that slightly fewer kids reported having a drink in the last month. No evidence of longer term benefits.

And if you assume the reduction in reported drinking was from kids having a drink or two a month then the program's evidence is that it is doing harm by teaching against moderation.

And I looked at the site's research for Too Good for Drugs and the primary outcome is a not statistically reduction in the student's intent to use drugs. A study that had a teacher checklist showed an increase of "prosocial" behaviors and deciphering the mumbo jumbo admits the study showed no evidence of that increase having any effect on drug or alcohol abuse.

The unfortunate fact is that the most effective strategy for reducing binge drinking is teaching moderation, but that is technically illegal. So we do not teach what is shown to work, but instead teach what is shown to increase problem drinking later in life.


Martha D Young 3 years, 6 months ago

Thank you, Scott. Questionnaire results are not the equivalent of longitudinal studies.


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