Middle school and high school students get new health curriculum | SteamboatToday.com

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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 β€” known as the Persistent Drunk Driving Program Grant β€” 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