Kenai Middle School students learn important lessons with fun activities

Delivering the message
Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion Kassandra Renfrow blows a bubble faster than anyone else in her group during Kenai Middle School's "Blow Bubbles, not smoke" anti-drug activity for Red Ribbon week Wednesday October 30, 2013 in Kenai, Alaska.

Red Ribbon week is the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the country. Last week Kenai Middle School had fun with themed days, educational assignments and projects to encourage students to remember the importance of staying drug-free.

Luanne Bressler, sixth-grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher, is one of six on the Red Ribbon Committee. She said while the timing of the week varies, it is always held in October.

According to iamdrugfree.com, Red Ribbon Week serves as a vehicle for communities and individuals to take a stand for the hopes and dreams of children through a commitment to drug prevention and education and a personal commitment to live drug free lives with the ultimate goal being the creation of drug free America. The week also commemorates the sacrifice made by Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who died at the hands of drug traffickers in Mexico while fighting the battle against illegal drugs. Within weeks of his death in 1985, badges of red satin became a symbol of Camarena’s memory. Today, Red Ribbon Week is nationally recognized and celebrated.

Bressler said the week was filled with activities to encourage youths to stay away from harmful substances including tobacco, alcohol and drugs. She said another important stigma was added to Red Ribbon week.

“This year we also tagged on bullying,” Bressler said.

The KMS staff kicked off the week with an assembly with guest speaker Victor DeNoble who discussed with the students about the effects of drugs and alcohol on the human brain.

“He was a great presenter,” she said. “Our students were very engaged.”

The week was also celebrated with a different theme each week.

— Monday was wear red and say no to drugs and bullies; kids who wore red received red licorice candy and a red ribbon.

— Tuesday was friends don’t let friends do drugs or bully. Students dressed like twins and at lunch students drew a number and sat next to a different student to encourage diversity. They also had relay races with others table groups.

— Wednesday was blow bubbles not smoke day. Students who wore pink to school got a piece of bubble gum. There was also a bubble blowing contest at lunch.

— Thursday’s theme, since it was Halloween, was drugs are scary. Kids wore their Halloween costumes and prizes were given at lunch for each grade.

— To wrap up the week, Friday was stomp out drugs day, where kids wore mismatched shoes.

Another project Bressler had for her class was an introduction to note taking. She showed her class a Discovery Education film on the effects of drugs on the brain, shortly after the assembly. Her students took notes on the film, and Thursday they wrote a short essay on drug effects, with their notes.

Bressler said KMS students also made a large paper quilt, with many pledging not to do drugs and listing two positive activities they like to do. The quilt is on display in the commons area.

KMS students also watched an anti-substance video produced by Tyler Schlung’s Northern Lights Media class.

Schlung said the class, made up of six seventh- and- eighth-graders, wrote and produced a short video to increase awareness for other KMS students. Each student had a partner and helped produce one of three segments — the introduction to Red Ribbon Week, the history of the week and activities offered at the school.

The video was made a week in advance and it was shown to KMS students during Red Ribbon Week.

The media class wrote scripts and then edited and filmed the segments.

“It works them on their proof-reading skills,” Schlung said.

Bressler said the Kenai Central High School and KMS band teacher, Mrs. Sounart, brought her drumline to KMS for a short performance Wednesday.

“After performing, the (KCHS) seniors each shared about their commitment to be drug (and) tobacco free,” she said.

Sara J. Hardan can be reached at sara.hardan@peninsulaclarion.com

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