Yampa Valley High School educators design first health curriculum for marijuana in the country
July 16, 2015
Without any local or national resources to address students’ questions about marijuana in a post-legalization environment, Yampa Valley High School counselor Molly Lotz and teachers Sarah Peed and Chuck Rosemond decided to take matters into their own hands by establishing the Marijuana Education Initiative.
Through the organization, the educators began developing their own reality and science-based education curriculum for schools in northwest Colorado and around the country.
"We started to see a change in the dialogue and communication with our students, especially about their marijuana use," Lotz said. "For the first time, I had some students ask me for help in reducing and taking stock of their use, but when I looked for resources, I found ones for tobacco and alcohol, but nothing for marijuana."
MEI, which will pilot in schools in Northwest Colorado and the Front Range in the fall and spring, acknowledges that students are naturally curious, will have questions and, in some cases, may try marijuana. With that curiosity in mind, Peed explained, MEI will compensate for the disparity in perspective between education developed before and after legalization.
"We're not taking a position for or against legalization, but in Colorado and more states across the country, it's legal, and we need to have a means of educating kids," Peed said. "With the ‘just say no’ approach, we are alienating the students who have said yes or are curious or have questions. We want to give students the information they need to make informed choices. We want our youth to understand the risks associated with adolescent use, particularly where brain development is concerned."
MEI will provide resources for both prevention and intervention. Rosemond is designing the prevention curriculum, while Lotz is designing the intervention curriculum.
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"We're going to teach that, of course, abstinence is the best practice, but I get it; kids are going to experiment," Rosemond said. "Our goal is to say, ‘here's the information to make an informed decision, and here are the consequences of use at a younger age.’ We're also going to teach ways of communicating with parents and peers about their use or just questions they have."
After collecting enough data from pilot programs and feedback from a third-party review by a Ph.D. from Colorado State University, MEI will be available for schools to purchase, possibly as early as fall 2016.
To keep schools up to date with post-purchase marijuana research, MEI will be sold on a web and subscription-based platform.
The ultimate goal, Rosemond said, is to expand services to cater to as young as fifth grade and as old as college students. From there, the educators would design a parent outreach program to foster community conversations not isolated to the schools.
D.A.R.E., an international substance abuse prevention education program, advocates full abstinence from drug use in youth. According to D.A.R.E. regional director Ron Brogan, D.A.R.E. has no plans to change its education curriculum to adapt to legalization.
"States that have legalized marijuana have violated federal law, and because of that and our opposition to marijuana legalization, D.A.R.E. will continue with its education as is," Brogan said.
Unlike Brogan, Rosemond says education needs to parallel state laws.
"We're so progressive here in Colorado, and some states react to that like legalization is the worst thing that has happened to kids here," she said. "The dynamic has changed here, and we have a receptive audience here to this marijuana education."
MEI has established a gofundme campaign to pay for professional consultation and curriculum evaluations. To learn more about MEI or to contribute to the gofundme campaign, visit gofundme.com/w6eqqu6e.