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Creating Culturally Relevant Conversations About Health in Native Classrooms

SOURCE: Discovery Education


With attention focused squarely on the COVID pandemic, it is understandable that may have forgotten about the drug epidemic, which continues to impact lives across the country.

Connecting the dots between what students learn in the classroom and at home is critical to helping students stay healthy. Parents, caregivers, and educators are all part of the child-rearing ecosystem, each critical parts of a community supporting the whole child.

To empower communities with the knowledge and tools needed to fight the drug epidemic, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Discovery Education created a special no-cost initiative. Called Operation Prevention, this program provides educators, students, and families the resources needed to discuss the impacts of substance misuse and drug addiction.

New to Operation Prevention is the Good Medicine Bundle. Designed with the National Indian Education Association, this new resource calls upon the wisdom and teachings of the American Indian and Alaska Native communities. This new bundle includes insightful lesson plans and activities focused on native practices of teaching, learning, and maintaining good health both for body and soul. In addition, there are four new professional learning videos to help teachers spark conversations in native communities about substance misuse.

Conversations surrounding trauma and substance misuse should start at a young age to support students. Here are three ways help students:

Provide Culturally Relevant Content
Important to any conversation, especially difficult ones like substance misuse and addiction, is cultural relevancy. The best way to engage students and encourage them to participate is to teach the  content in a way relatable to their personal situations. With these resources in hand, teachers teach students to process challenges in healthy ways by calling upon traditional native peoples’ practices such as the medicine wheel and storytelling.

Furthermore, this bundle specifically connects Native American students to their ancestors and to health today, and educators everywhere need to do the same within their own community. Furthering understanding about customs, traditions, and the struggles of the past allows history to live through students and strengthens community bonds to properly tackle any issues.

Guide Students to Process their Feelings
Many students need help learning to process their feelings and how their emotions impact their lives. Guiding and growing healthy conversations makes future bad days easier, helps them make smart and healthy decisions, and empowers students to be their best.

As they age, guide students to identify and call out traumatic experiences and build goals to find beneficial outcomes. The Good Medicine Bundle helps teach students that bad things may happen, but they can build resiliency and find coping mechanisms to move them forward in life and not let it define them.

Be Present in the Conversations
It is scary for children at any age to share what they are going through in front of others. Use the Operation Prevention resources to sit down with students in the talking circle, share thoughts and vulnerabilities, and engage with the group to create a safe environment for students to open up. Encourage dialogue to flow, give everyone the opportunity to speak, and encourage them that it is okay to share feelings. By supporting students in this way, you can reinforce trust and allow for meaningful, genuine connections.

The drug epidemic is real and is impacting students nationwide. The DEA and Discovery Education are here to support communities by providing no cost and high-quality resources. Together, we can lead students to healthier outcomes and build more resilient communities.

Tweet me: Help students understand the impacts of substance misuse and build more resilient communities through no-cost, culturally relevant resources from @DEAHQ and @DiscoveryEd:

KEYWORDS: NYSE:DISCA, discovery education, Operation Prevention, dea

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