Old Court Middle School welcomed AmeriCorps VISTAs Bidemi Oladiran and Ashley Gibson, on behalf of University of Maryland Extension 4-H, to its STEM Expo this April, bringing hands-on, smoking and drug prevention activities to grades 6-8.
Before traveling to Old Court Middle school, the VISTAs attended training at the University of Maryland Extension 4-H center in College Park, in which they focused on engaging curriculum to educate youth on the consequences of smoking, tobacco, and illegal drug use. The 4-H “Health Rocks” curriculum encourages an active role for students in each lesson, instead of lecturing, and encourages observation and self-reflection.
The 4-H station at the STEM Expo featured two popular simulation activities. The first emphasized the extra stress and burden of smoking or drug addictions. After each student wrote their common causes of stress on their own balloons, they had the task of keeping each balloon off the ground and in the air. “Smoking/Drugs” balloons were added to the mix, and the students found themselves frantically diving after balloons, to keep up with all the stress in the air. They quickly decided that balancing their daily stress factors was enough – no need to add on the stress of addiction!
A breathing simulation, using different-sized straws, taught students what it feels like to have a diminished capacity to breathe. Through long, slow, difficult breaths, students struggled to breathe sufficiently through tiny, black coffee stirrers. Few could complete the entire 60 seconds, and all agreed that they would prefer healthy lungs.
Other stations included fire safety, surgical tools, a laparoscopic surgery simulation, toy car demonstration of Newton’s Laws of Motion, and a reptilian petting zoo, featuring a baby python, frogs, salamanders, geckos, as well as Madagascar hissing cockroaches.
By: Ashley Gibson (AmeriCorps VISTA with Veterans in Partnership)
Edited by: Bidemi Oladiran