WMS students address big issues

Students share ideas on preventing drug abuse

By Martin Graham - mgraham@recordherald.com

Washington Middle School eighth-grade honors English Language Arts students recently participated in a virtual presentation on drug abuse where they shared some potential ideas to reach those addicted in the community and prevent more residents from turning to substance abuse.

The Record-Herald was invited to the virtual event hosted by Amy Frederick, M.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction, Gifted Education at the Washington Middle School where a reporter served as a panelist to help provide feedback. For the event, the other panelists included local leaders such as director and station manager at WCHC-TV David Woolever, community development director at the Ranch of Opportunity, Kristy Bowers, Washington Court House City Council member Caleb Johnson and director of marketing and communications at Washington Court House City Schools, Trevor Patton.

The purpose of the panel was to let the students know what they liked, what they could use some work on and also offer some assistance with the projects if they could.

“We had read ‘The Outsiders,’ which also included a closer look at socio-economic disparity as an issue in society,” Frederick wrote via email recently. “We had also discussed that the author, S.E. Hinton, was a teenager when she wrote The Outsiders, and she wanted to show the world that, as she put it, ‘Teenagers know a lot today. Not just things out of a textbook, but about living.’ And so I kind of combined these things and thought, a next step is to allow my students the opportunity to choose an issue in our community and as teens, effect a change. So, they talked to family and classmates and generated dozens and dozens of issues. They did multiple rounds of voting to narrow the list. They even did two rounds of final voting because, though there was a clear winner in the first round, I think the idea of tackling this issue caused some anxiety. Like, ‘This problem is so big. How do you approach this?’ But they chose a serious and pressing topic that is very real to them.”

During each presentation the students would share their project and explain how they arrived at their conclusions before putting into detail what their plan was to help tackle drug abuse issues in the community. It was based on these findings and conclusions that two of the groups decided they would put together websites and two would work on podcasts.

The first group’s website was focused on resources that could help addicts — or those impacted by addiction — seek help for either themselves or others. The panelists liked the previewed look of the website with nice flashy colors, and suggestions from Bowers were made on additional call or preferably text lines, as she has noticed students would rather text than call. Patton and Woolever both expressed a willingness to help the students get the word out on the website either via social media or other websites.

The second group’s website was more focused on education for the community at-large. This website would help to inform the community of the impact of drug abuse including its impact on local law enforcement, health care and more. Johnson said that both websites would have the potential to reach their audience, are very informative and the panelists agreed with him that the two websites may be better together than apart and could help provide a lot of information to locals on how they can get help and provide information. Again, the panelists expressed a willingness to help share the website with others.

The third group presented a podcast idea that would be directed at students and would seek to inform them directly about the impact of drug abuse. The podcast would focus on sharing various views of the drug epidemic from different perspectives in the community.

The fourth group had a similar idea, but would focus more on the story of addicts or those recovering from drug addiction. Though they said it would be difficult and they needed equipment, they wanted to talk with those individuals so that their story may impact others.

Panelists had similar ideas for these two presentations and asked the students where they received their daily news or information, with most saying they use YouTube, podcasts and Instagram, among a few other platforms. It was explained that using these other platforms such as Instagram, they could preview their work to their audience or potential audience.

Woolever shared some additional software that could be available to the students to help push the podcasts out to the internet or help edit them. There was more discussion on names of the podcasts, and Bowers made sure to talk about specific documentation that would protect those talking and the students from lawsuits or other issues.

Overall, the panelists really appreciated the work that went into the projects and the willingness to pick a topic that has a profound impact on the community. They agreed that seeing students want to tackle this issue goes to show that drug abuse is found all over and they want to make a difference.

Frederick said following the event, a couple students said that it is scary to talk to adults who aren’t teachers, but one student also said, “I knew when we were done it would go beyond the classroom and could actually help someone out or even just help people out beyond the school and it makes you feel accomplished.”

Additionally, she said that they were excited to hear feedback to improve what they had already done.

“I wanted to thank you all again for meeting with my students and for providing your professional feedback to them,” Frederick wrote via email following the event. “When we started this project weeks ago, it could have gone in any direction. The students truly led us to today. And, I think it speaks volumes about them that they chose such a serious and pressing topic. This issue is very real to them, and their real-world experience today, with the questions, feedback, and recommendations that you offered, will help them not only with future learning endeavors, but it will affect them in ways that we can’t even imagine. Thank you for being such influential members of our community and valuable resources for our students. We all truly appreciate it.”

Reach Martin Graham on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.

Students share ideas on preventing drug abuse

By Martin Graham