When the DARE program was eliminated in April 2010 because of budget constraints, Saratoga Springs residents and school district administrators were left wondering what to do about drug, alcohol and tobacco education.
The Prevention Council may have a replacement of sortsor at least an alternativewith its program `Too Good For Drugs` that it already implements in other school districts around Saratoga County.
`It’s utilized in eighth and sixth grade, the programs ‘Too Good For Drugs’ and ‘Too Good For Violence.’ The district asked us what we thought would work so we set up in Saratoga this year as a first try,` said Pat Marin, Prevention Council’s director of school-based prevention.
The intensive, science-based curriculum was tested out on fifth graders at Division Street and Geyser Road elementary schools in the Saratoga Springs City School District in early February and the remaining four schools are set to start the curriculum later in the year.
`I’m hoping we do more of this because DARE has been eased out of the schools,` said Marin. `This was an opportunity because DARE was 16 or 17 lessons and the district really didn’t want to see the kids lose out on a prevention service.`
What makes `Too Good For Drugs` different from DARE is that it’s science-based, said Marin.
`It’s very interactive, great activities and talks about goal setting and decision making. We’ve always had our focus on presenting a program that children would make a decision they learn the risks of using a drug from a personal point of view and that you can change your perception of yourself growing up,` said Marin. `Focus on what you want to do with your life and drugs can diminish that. This program is figuring this out and not so much about bad and the negatives.`
Marin said the program covers tobacco, talks about resistance skills, ways to reduce pressure, role playing, communicating effectively and how to stand up to look someone in the eye and tell them how you feel. It promotes assertiveness and a digression from being passive and going along with someone else’s decisions; taking responsibility for actions. It also features a lesson on alcohol and children of alcoholics.
`We tell them it’s not your fault and demonstrate what alcohol does to family life. It’s an interesting program and kids enjoy it,` said Marin.
To keep the younger kids’ attention and help the information really sink in, the curriculum is heavy on games.
`We do spinner games and it’s excellent,` said Marin.
Because the Prevention Council is a non-profit, the `Too Good For Drugs` program gets help from council educators and the teacahers.
`We have teachers doing four lessons and us doing four lessons because we can’t do all of them,` said Marin.
`Too Good For Drugs` is supposed to show `measurable changes in students’ attitudes and behaviors` before and after the lessons are taught. To gauge this progress, teachers administer pre- and post-tests.
`So far the response from students and teachers has been really good,` said Marin. `The principals have mentioned that they’ve received positive feedback from parents about the interactive parent/child worksheets, too.`
Saratoga Springs might be the latest area school district to implement `Too Good For Drugs` but the curriculum is already a part of schools in Galway, Mechanicville, South Glens Falls, Corinth, Stillwater and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, targeting third, fourth, sixth and seventh grades, said Marin.
`Wherever school districts have requested or done different programs, we convert them to this program because we have science-based criteria,` said Marin.
This is the first year `Too Good For Drugs` has been offered to fifth graders and Marin said she thinks it’s a great age to start.
`It’s a perfect place to put it in fifth grade because they’re heading to middle school,` said Marin.
For more information about the program, visit the Prevention Council online at www.preventioncouncil.org.