A new computer-based drug prevention program designed to help teachers show fifth- and sixth-graders how to resist methamphetamine was shown in action Nov. 2 at Callanan Middle School in Des Moines, Iowa.

“Life or Meth: What’s the Cost?” operates like a computer game, leading children through different animated scenarios that serve as interactive lessons. Students must respond to questions for the program to continue.

Karen Sievers, a sixth-grade science teacher at Callanan, said the program is what she’s been looking for to help her talk to students about the meth problem.

“It gives them some information and it takes care of their worries,” Sievers said.

The computer program was created for use in the Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which includes Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The HIDTA program helps coordinate state, local, and federal drug-control efforts.

For 11-year-old Laura Zellmer, the animated characters, active soundtrack, and lively video images make learning fun. Children are led through the program by an animated host named Terry, a boy their own age.

“You get this cool kid dressed in fashionable clothes,” she said. “It’s attractive and you can be up there, front and center, and see what it’s like.”

Classmate Lakiya Staten said the program provides information kids her age need to know.

“It teaches you some things about meth, like things you didn’t know,” she said. “It’s like, you make the decision about whether you want to do it or not.”

Sievers said the lesson fits well into her class because it explains basic biology and what the drug does to the body. It also helps apply that information to the students’ lives.

“The last part is, ‘How do I deal with all the pressures that are coming to me? How do I make wise decisions? What is assertive behavior versus caving in?’ That’s valuable,” Sievers said.

At one point, police raid a clandestine meth lab. With high-energy music in the background, the video moves like live-action police dramas on television. At the end of the segment, the meth lab explodes into a huge fireball.

“After the explosion happened kids were like, this is scary stuff,” Zellmer said. “I think that it’s scary stuff and it’s something to watch out for.”

Sievers said her class was riveted to the program for two days. “I can’t do what the technology can do, and that is to grab their attention in a very wide and very careful way,” she said.

The program, created by Universal Technologies Inc. of Johnston, Iowa, is available free of charge to educators who teach substance abuse prevention in the Midwest region. Army National Guard Lt. Col. Kathryn Fulkerson said HIDTA already has received 79 orders for the set of six CD-ROMs.

She said companion programs for third- and fourth- graders and another for high school students and adults are being developed. n


Midwest HIDTA, phone (816) 746-4911
web: http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/enforce/hidta/midw-main.html.