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New Curriculum Designed to Help Middle School Students Say No to Drinking

UPDATED

Teachers now have a free, new, digital curriculum available to help them teach middle school students about the dangers of underage drinking.

The curriculum was developed by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) and focuses on the negative effects of alcohol on developing brains.

"We know that kids find this to be the most interesting, and they're the most curious about this part," said Ralph Blackman, the president and CEO of the foundation, which was created by the distilled spirits industry. [This post has been updated to include the backers of the foundation. 12/5]

Blackman said the curriculum will teach students what each part of the brain does, how each part is affected by alcohol and how alcohol alters a user's behavior or functions. For example, students would learn about the effect of alcohol on balance and on memory.

The curriculum includes a seven-part animated series and corresponding lesson plans. It was released last month through Responsibility.org's alcohol education program, Ask, Listen, Learn: Kids and Alcohol Don't Mix. Each part includes 30-40 minute classroom activities, vocabulary words, and comprehension questions. 

Why Middle School?

A national survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2015 found that 10 percent of 8th graders reported drinking in the last month, while 5 percent admitted to binge drinking, or having five or more drinks in a row, in the previous two weeks. 

Last month, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murphy issued a report on substance abuse entitled, "Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health." The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services noted that it marked the first time a surgeon general had dedicated a report to the topic.

"Although substance misuse problems and use disorders may occur at any age, adolescence and young adulthood are particularly critical at-risk periods," Dr. Murphy said in a press release. "Preventing or even simply delaying young people from trying substances is important to reducing the likelihood of a use disorder later in life." 

Blackman echoed those sentiments.

"We think if we can help kids understand the negative consequences of underage drinking before they're in situations requiring them to make decisions in the face of peer pressure, then we stand a better chance of delaying the onset of alcohol consumption," said Blackman.

The hope is that these lessons will stick as students go on to high school and beyond and that students will talk about what they've learned with their parents.

"We know that parents are the leading influence in kids' decisions to drink or not to drink, and we are committed to guiding a lifetime of conversations," said Blackman.

The curriculum was designed to align with National Health Education Standards, the Common Core State Standards, and the Next Generation Science Standards and was reviewed by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the American School Counselor Association.


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