Snuffing Out Synthetic Drug Use

Teacher(s): Rachel Haddad
Main Contact: Rachel Haddad Email:
Date: July 2012 Building:  TBD Grade Level: 8 – 12
First Trimester: __________ Second Trimester: __________ Third Trimester: __________
First Semester: ___________ Second Semester: __________

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Project Overview

Give a brief overview of the project you are planning.

High school youth in US History/Social Studies and/or US Government courses will connect the roles of government and policy to the accessibility and abuse of synthetic drugs (namely marijuana/K2/spice). Through their studies, students will know the following:
1) How bill 1082 became a law;
2) Statistics of synthetic drug use in MI;
3) A position on synthetic drug abuse/prevention and/or policy through a “This I Believe Essay” (through THIS I BELIEVE.ORG);
4) How to create and present a short film depicting ‘What is the impact of addiction to synthetic marijuana AND what is the role of community in combating drug usage among its young people?’ for presentation within their school and on Grand Rapids TV.
5) To share film clips and student ideas re: drug access, teen interest in drugs, and policy on synthetic drugs with a MI legislator or legislative aide through a face-to-face meeting or videoconference.
6) To participate in a public health forum and share student ideas on drug access, teen interest in drugs and policy.

Big Question(s) to consider: What is the role of the federal and state government in regulating the manufacture and distribution of synthetic drugs? OR, in what ways does synthetic drug abuse impact America?

Essential Questions:
o What are synthetic drugs (focus on synthetic marijuana)?
o What are the dangers of synthetic drugs?
o What are the economic impacts of substance abuse (synthetic drugs)?
o Why is alcohol legal at age 21 and marijuana and other synthetic drug use illegal?
o How does the government regulate access to drugs?
o What is US border control, and what is its role in combating access to drugs?
o What is the role of a community in combating drug usage amongst its young people?
o What is the role of young people in combating synthetic drugs?


Effective Practice: MEANINGFUL SERVICE

Service learning actively engages participants in meaningful and personally relevant service activities.

What community need will you address and how did you determine the need?

“According to data from the 2011 Monitoring the Future survey of youth drug-use trends, 11.4 percent of 12th graders used Spice or K2 in the past year, making it the second most commonly used illicit drug among seniors.” (From:

Through this project, students will connect their coursework in history/social studies/government (tracking bill to law, impact of policy) to the community issue of youth drug abuse and the policy that impacts drug access. The creation of “This I Believe” essays (to be submitted for publication on THIS I BELIEVE.ORG) and short films will be shared with the school community, the county, and individual(s) from the MI government ‘community’. Further, the essays and films will be submitted to both local TV and National Public Radio. The community need of synthetic drug awareness (specifically identified in the MI Profile for Healthy Youth Survey) and the impact of government policy will be met through these activities.

What service will you provide to address the need?
Students will serve others through the creation of “This I Believe” essays documenting positions on the role of young people AND policy in combating synthetic drugs, which will be shared with National Public Radio for the purpose of informing readers/listeners of National Public Radio of youth’s positions on this critical topic.

Students will participate in a public health forum through the Healthy Safe Drug-Free Schools and Communities Coalition, which will share insights into drug access and drug prevention that will assist community leaders in better understanding the gaps in drug prevention and ways drug prevention may be improved.

Service will also be performed through the sharing of synthetic drug content via short films. These films will be shown within the school to increase student-awareness of the impact synthetics can have on users. Films will also be submitted to local Grand Rapids TV for distribution in the county and in so doing, will inform the greater Grand Rapids community on the subject.

Speaking with MI legislator(s) will be a further service. Students will engage in a discourse with legislators on behalf of other MI youth on the subject of what addiction to K2 looks like, accessibility to synthetics, youth interest in synthetics, and the impact of bill 1082 on youth access to synthetics. Possible alternatives for limiting youth access and/or interest in drugs may also be discussed.


Effective Practice: LINK TO CURRICULUM

Service learning is intentionally used as an instructional strategy to meet learning goals and/or content standards.

How is this project related to your curriculum?

History/Social Studies & Government: Tracking the process of a bill-to-law is a vital part of the federal process. Additionally, analysis of a public issue (synthetic drugs) and evaluating solutions to the issue of synthetic drug policy will connect the course to real world issues.
• Historical Perspective: Connect current drug policy to historic policies related to drugs (prohibition, in particular) through peer discussion and testimonials from public persons in order to understand the ways drug policy has shifted over time.
• Civic Perspective: Study Bill 1082 and the process of a bill becoming a law to understand the role of government at the local, state, and national levels, and also the ways in which citizens can work to impact policy.
• Inquiry: Study the MI Profile for Healthy Youth survey findings connected to drug use in MI teens and use the findings, in addition to testimonials and other primary and secondary source documents, to comprehend the public policy issue of synthetic drugs.
• Public Discourse and Decision Making: Write coherent persuasive essays articulating a position on synthetic drugs and possible solutions for decreasing their use among teens.

Speak in a public health forum on the subject of synthetic drugs and combating their use in teens.
• Citizen Involvement: Develop an electronic presentation to be shared with the school, community, and legislator for the purpose of expressing ideas and solutions to a public policy issue.

English: Writing a “This I Believe” essay of 350-500 words, according to THIS I BELIEVE.ORG guidelines, will ask students to express a position on a public issue in succinct and clear language. Also, the creation of the film will draw upon student’s storyboard, script-writing and presentation skills. Speaking in the public forum will provide an opportunity for students to hone public speaking skills.

Technology: Creation of a short film will ask students to understand how to write a storyboard and script, how to film, how to edit film, and how to present the final product.

Science: Analysis of the impact of synthetic drugs on the human body may be applicable to a biology, chemistry, or anatomy/physiology course.

Math: Students may analyze the Michigan Profile on Healthy Youth’s statistics and may draw comparisons across counties, forming hypotheses around abuse of drugs and demographic/environment/age/etc.

Fine Arts: Students may use curriculum from a fine arts course (i.e. music, theatre, drama) to assist in their development of the film component of this project.

What are the educational goals?

1. Students will learn what synthetic drugs are and what synthetic drugs can do to one’s body, family, and community.
2. Students will understand how federal and state policy directly affects their lives.
3. Students will seek to express the role of youth in combating drug abuse through development of essays and films.
4. Students will experience character development through assertion of a stance on a public health issue that draws upon both prior knowledge and new knowledge.
5. Students will share their work with their school community, the county, and a MI legislator. In so doing, students’ public speaking skills, self-confidence, and sense of responsibility to their community will be enhanced.
6. Students will assess one another’s essays for the purpose of reflection on both the subject matter and style of their peers’ work.


Curriculum Crafter Connections

Strand: AG: (Civics)
TLW: Describe the roles of various groups in shaping public policy and their influence on citizen participation, and engage in meaningful projects to influence public policy. (Gist: Political Players and Civic Life)

Strand: 11-12 ELA: (Writing)
TLW: Write a variety of argumentative text for different purposes. (Gist: Text Types and Purposes Argumentative Writing)

Strand: (Sociology)
TLW: Analyze the nature and causes of social problems and suggest possible prevention strategies or solutions. (Gist: Social Problems and Preventative Strategies)

Strand: AG: (Civics)
TLW: Identify and explain the conceptual foundations of civic and political life. (Gist: Conceptual Foundations)


Additional State Standards and Benchmarks

List standards and benchmarks met by this project.

The following are all from the Michigan Curriculum Framework

Strand I: Content Standard IV: Benchmark I (I.IV.I): All students will evaluate key decisions made at critical turning points in history, assessing their implications and long-term consequences.

  • Identity major decisions in the history of Michigan and the United States of America since the era of Reconstruction,.  Analyze contemporary factors contributing to the decision and consider alternate courses of action.

Strand 3: Content Standard 1: Benchmark 2 (III.I.II): All students will identify the purposes of national, state, and local government and will describe how citizens organize governments to accomplish their purposes and assess their effectiveness

  • Evaluate how effectively the federal government is serving the purposes for which it was created.

Strand V: Standard V: Benchmark II (V.V.II): All students will acquire information from books, maps, newspapers, data sets, and other sources, organize and present the information in maps, graphs, charts, and timelines, interpret the meaning and significance of information, and use a variety of electronic technologies to assist in accessing and managing information.

  • Use traditional and electronic means to organize and interpret information pertaining to a specific social science topic and prepare it for in-depth presentation.

Strand VI: Standard VI. Benchmark I (VI.VI.I): All students will state an issue clearly as a question of public policy trace the origins of the issue, analyze various perspectives people bring to the issue and evaluate possible ways to resolve the issue.

  • Generate possible alternative resolutions to public issue and evaluate them using criteria that have been identified.

Strand VI: Content Standard VI. Benchmark II (VI.VI.II): All students will engage their peers in constructive conversation about matters of public concern by clarifying issues, considering opposing views, applying democratic values, anticipating consequences, and working toward making decisions. (Group Discussion)

  • Engage each other in elaborated conversations that deeply examine public policy issues and help make reasoned and informed decisions.

Strand VI: Content Standard VI. Benchmark III (VI.VI.III): All students will compose coherent written essays that express a public issue and justify the position with reasoned arguments.

  • Compose extensively elaborated essays expressing and justifying decisions on public policy issues.

Strand VII: Content Standard VII. Benchmarks I and II (VII.VII.I.II): All students will consider the effects of an individual’s actions on other people, how one acts in accordance with the rule of law, and how one acts in a virtuous and ethically responsible way as a member of society.

  1. Act out of respect for the rule of law and hold others accountable to the same standard.
  2. Plan and conduct activities intended to advance their views on matters of public policy, report the results of their efforts and evaluate their effectiveness.


Effective Practice: REFLECTION

Service learning incorporates multiple challenging reflection activities that are ongoing and that prompt deep thinking and analysis about oneself and one’s relationship to society.

What form(s) of reflection will you use with the students to help them identify what they have learned and accomplished?

1. Journaling throughout unit
2. Response writing from an article or prompt or testimonial (Sheriff? former drug addict?)
3. Reflective essays (on legal v. illegal medical marijuana; impact of synthetics on youth impact of drugs on youth; US border control; alternate solutions to dissuade youth from abusing drugs; process of filming)
4. Classroom, whole school, and county presentations (community connection)
5. Assessment/reflection of one another’s essays for the purpose of further exposure to the subject matter and their peers’ writing style
6. Presentation to MI legislator and county leaders (community connection)
7. Assessment/reflection of peers’ essays


Effective Practice: DIVERSITY

Service learning promotes understanding of diversity and mutual respect among all participants.

What types of diverse perspectives and experiences will be explored as part of your project?

(I.e.: cultural, generational, abilities/disabilities, learning styles, etc)

The issue of generational diversity will be a part of this project as students will explore the abuse of synthetic drugs by youth as opposed to more established adults. Generation gaps will also be explored as students draft “This I Believe” essays asserting ways in which they, American YOUTH, think YOUTH can be involved in combating synthetic drug abuse and impacting policy around it.

Various learning styles including auditory, visual, and kinesthetic will be utilized in this project through seeing/reading material on synthetics, hearing testimonials and engaging in discussions about drugs, marijuana, etc., and through the creation of film presentations (acting/doing).


Effective Practice: YOUTH VOICE

Service learning provides youth with a strong voice in planning, implementing, and evaluating service learning experiences with guidance from adults.

How will students gain ownership of the project?

Students will have the opportunity to develop essays and films that depict their positions on synthetic drugs. The writing of the essay will allow them to ‘own’ and ‘seek publication’ of their beliefs on the subject, which will foster ownership.

Additionally, the film component of the project will allow for creative freedom and youth voice. Students will be given a topic to explore but will be granted autonomy in their writing, acting, filming, and editing processes.

When students present their films to both the school community and a MI legislator (either through face-to-face or video conference), they will exercise their voices to articulate their films and their ideas on the subject of what addiction to K2 looks like, accessibility to synthetics, youth interest in synthetics, and the impact of bill 1082 on youth access to synthetics. Possible alternatives for limiting youth access and/or interest in drugs may also be discussed. The opportunity to speak directly with the school community and the legislative community will empower students.

Participation through public speaking in a health forum will present an opportunity for students to vocalize positions on drug policy and the ways in which youth can help to combat drug abuse.



Service learning partnerships are collaborative, mutually beneficial, and address community needs.

Who will you partner with for this project?

• The school at large
• Kent County Sheriff’s Department
• MI legislator – possibly an aide if a legislator is not available (Carl Levin?)
• Healthy Safe Drug-Free Schools and Communities Coalition – health forum
• Cable television and possible local networks
• THIS I BELIEVE.ORG – via online submissions

How will students benefit from this partnership?

Students will benefit from the partnership with the school at large, as students are always interested in the perceptions of their peers. Sharing work and ideas on drug abuse with peers is an opportunity for students to gain ownership of a real world topic while using youth voice to speak out against it. A partnership with the school allows students to own their products and their views on synthetic drugs while also supporting drug-free discussions and perceptions throughout the student and administrative bodies of the school.

Partnering with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department will add testimonials and ‘real life’ repercussions to the topic of synthetic drug use.

Partnering with THIS I BELIEVE.ORG, cable television and (possibly) local TV networks give a sense of ‘community’ to the project. Students will see their work as bigger than their classroom or school, and as a result their input into their products should be enhanced.

Partnering with a MI legislator adds a strong social studies/history/government link to this project and connects students’ textbook curriculum to the day-to-day application of law and policy. Adding a MI legislator to the project will not only benefit the legislator, but will demonstrate to the students that their voices count.

Speaking in a public health forum will allow students to use their voices to communicate with various community members from different ages, work sites, and backgrounds on the ways in which drug abuse is occurring in teens, how policy impacts teens, and ways youth may assist in combating drug abuse.

How will the partner benefit from this collaboration?

The voices of youth are important and often go unheard. Through partnering with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, THIS I BELIEVE.ORG, cable television, Healthy Safe Drug-Free Schools and Communities Coalition’s health forum, and the MI legislature, each entity will have direct access to a population whose actions and views affect the whole. Opening a discourse on synthetic drugs with students will allow for adult partners to better understand the ways in which drugs in MI can be combated. Furthermore, students can provide insights to their adult partners on how drugs are accessed, why they remain of interest, and how better to police their accessibility.



Service learning engages participants in an ongoing process to assess the quality of implementation and progress toward meeting specified goals, and uses results for improvement and sustainability.

How will you assess the student learning goals?

Student learning goals will be assessed through reflective activities, the essay project, the film project, participation in the county health forum, and the final peer-assessment of student essays. Additionally, an educator may wish to have students complete a reflection essay on the project at its conclusion.

How will you assess your service goals?

Service goals will be assessed through monitoring the THIS I BELIEVE.ORG website and its publication of student essays. A follow-up conversation with the MI legislator may also be valuable to discuss avenues for further student voice in the legislature, and possible focus group sessions on future student-related subjects (driving laws, alcohol laws, etc.). The annual Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth survey is a further source of assessment. A teacher may check the data at its subsequent publication to see if the statistics for drug use/abuse in their respective county and/or school have shifted since the previous year, prior to the project.



Service learning has sufficient duration and intensity to address community needs and meet specified outcomes.

How will you prepare students for this experience?

• Journal writing on drug abuse and/or synthetic drugs

o Journal prompt to kick-off unit: “Marijuana or its alternative, K2/spice, has the ability to alter perception, sometimes with fatal consequences. Write about drug use/abuse of marijuana by teens. Consider the following: why is it popular, OR who uses/abuses and why, OR in what ways does marijuana impact teens?”

• Ask students to draw a T-chart and watch two brief film clips. On one side the chart should be types of ‘products’ that are considered ‘synthetic’. The other side should be the side affects of the synthetic drugs.

o Students may prepare for this experience by watching film clips on the subject:


• Web quests on synthetic drugs/synthetic marijuana:



• Watching or hearing live a testimonial from a community member affected by synthetic drugs.

What are some sample possible activities students might do as part of this project?

• Journal prompt to kick-off unit: “Marijuana or its alternative, K2/spice, has the ability to alter perception, sometimes with fatal   consequences. Write about drug use/abuse of marijuana by teens. Consider the following: why is it popular, who uses/abuses and why, what are the impacts of marijuana on teens?”
• Discuss the role of policy on communities. What is the role of policy, and why is it necessary? When might policy be problematic? What is the role of the state in deciding its affairs? The role of the federal government?
• Review bill 1082 and trace the process of bill-to-law through a study of WHAT occurs at each stage. Spilt the class into small groups and assign each group a ‘piece’ of the bill-to-law process to research, then present findings to the class.
• Analyze the MI Profile for Healthy Youth survey. Study the statistics of youth who have used/abused alcohol, drugs, etc. Compare findings across different counties in MI.
• Listen to/watch a testimonial clip of a young person who has used/abused synthetic marijuana. Facilitate a paired discussion afterwards that ‘unpacks’ the testimonial.
• Ask Kent County Sheriff Department to speak with class on the subject of drug abuse in the county, in particular among teens. Focus should be on synthetic marijuana. A Q and A may occur during or after this session, involve a reflective writing task.
• Read two different opinion pieces on the merits/cons of medical marijuana. Facilitate a debate.
• Read two different opinion pieces on US border control. Engage the class in small group discussions on the two pieces.
• Assign students the “This I Believe” essay. (See website:
• Ask students to post their essays around the room and hallway. Then, ask students to ‘gallery walk’ the essays, stopping to read and post a ‘Post-It’ note with a comment/suggestion/response on at least 5 others. Invite the administration to participate.
• Break class into film groups. Assign storyboard for film. Begin storyboard process, and then ask students to act, film, edit, and present films. Films to be shown in school for other students and admin. and county leaders, and also to be shared with MI legislator.
• Ask students to participate in the Healthy Safe Drug-Free Schools forum. In the forum, students will have a chance to speak about their project and solutions for healthier youth.



The three arms of sustainability are environmental stewardship, economic growth, and social progress. Think planet, profit, and people.

Describe how your project addresses the issue of sustainability?

This project addresses the issue of sustainability through its link to social progress. Getting teens involved in a social issue, advocating for progress in teens against drugs, promotes wellness in people. Economic growth is also affected as students will identify the number of young people affected by drug use, which represents a loss in other areas as drug abuse results in higher health care costs, higher unemployment, and less distribution of resources in healthy domains. Through completion of this project, students will understand the damaging effects of synthetic drugs and will seek to inform others about the drug, thereby limiting its use by teens.