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Hinsdale, Illinois |

Published July 30, 2009                                                         

Robert Crown creates innovative curriculum

New program allows math, science teachers to incorporate alcohol prevention in lesson plans

  By Christine Cuthbert

   It’s a known fact that drinking and binge drinking is on the rise among teens, and educators at the Robert Crown Center have found a new, innovative way to help.
   Beginning this fall, 50 teachers in middle and high schools will incorporate alcohol abuse prevention education into their math and science lessons. Kathleen Burke, executive director for the Robert Crown Center in Hinsdale, said through grant funding with the Illinois Math and Science Partnership, the health education center saw a great opportunity to teach health lessons through integrated curriculums.
   “We’ve been working to improve teacher understanding of math and science so they can teach it in a way that reflects real life,” she said. “A lot of kids will say, ‘What am I going to use this (math and science) for?’ or ‘How is this going to effect my life?’ but teaching them about alcohol prevention is a way for them to learn the math and science and apply it in their own lives.”
   Robert Crown educators David Bedney, Rose Tenuta and Andy Wenling spent roughly six weeks developing curriculum, which incorporates lessons about alcohol into math and science classes. Activities including graphing, charting, probability and calculating volume and dilution and more are used to discuss alcohol abuse while also teaching the students how to apply the math and science they’re learning.
   “In order to be effective, we needed to be creative with an avenue in which we can reach the kids,” Burke said. “The whole point of the curriculum is they’ll remember the lessons because they’re applied. When their friend tells them, “Oh, I can drink a six pack and it won’t do anything to me’ they know it’s not true and they also know the consequences down the line.”
   Other science activities include teaching teens about how alcohol causes  neurotransmitters and reflexes to slow.
   “Research has shown that oftentimes teaching preparation doesn’t always give the teachers a deep understanding the topic they’ll be teaching,” Burke said. “And asking a math or science teacher to discuss health can be a struggle because they may not be entirely comfortable with the subject if that’s not their background. What’s been great is teaching them these activities so they can then communicate the lessons to the students.”
   The curriculum won’t be used in the classrooms until the fall semester begins, but Wenling said the response from the teachers who participated in the professional development training was amazing.
   “The feedback has been phenomenal,” he said. “I’ve never taught something like this and seen this kind of a reaction from the teachers who participated. They were really excited to take it back and apply it in their classrooms. This was one of those times when I felt like this is why we do what we do.”
   Burke said many teachers who participated thought they learned lessons for their own life as well as for their community.
   Teacher Karen Henderson wrote, “Since I teach math at the middle school level, I found many of your lessons to be apropos for my students. You hit the topic of mean, median and mode, probability and graphing — all essential skills that I can teach and use to reinforce the vital life skill of alcohol avoidance.”
   The integrated curriculum will begin in classrooms in Aurora, Woodstock and Plano, but Burke said due to its huge success so far, she sees it being incorporated into to all the schools Robert Crown works with soon.
   “To see this succeed has been such a wonderful feeling,” she said. “No one else out there is doing this right now. This is a big change for us, and this is what we’re all about.”
   Robert Crown educators will visit participating classrooms during the 2009-10 school year to monitor the progress of the new curriculum.


       Making a Difference is a yearlong partnership between The Hinsdalean
and the Robert Crown Center for Health Education, which works
to teach and motivate youth to lead healthy, happy and safe lives.




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