Try This Alcohol Research Lab In Your Health Classroom!

Health teacher Amy Lauren Smith shares an alcohol research lab that can be used with students grades 8-12.

Courtesy of Amy Lauren Smith

It’s the end of the school year. This means our seniors are getting ready for college, the eighth graders are gearing up for high school, and many of our students will be faced with situations where they might be tempted to drink.

Rather than lecture them on the dangers of underage drinking, I like to have them find out the details for themselves, and then share the information with the class.

Here are some resources and questions I use for our research lab, but these change every semester. This is used with the 8th graders, but could easily be adapted for any grade level 8-12.

Alcohol Lab - Spring 2015

Station 1: Making the Right Decisions

The choices that you make as a teen will have an impact on the rest of your life. Positive choices bring positive results, and negative actions can sometimes lead to big trouble. In this station, you’ll see just how big.

Part One: College Life

1. Look at this list of high-risk college drinking consequences.

2. What percentage of American college students suffers academic problems due to drinking?  __________

Does this number surprise you? Explain…

Part Two: Legal and Academic Consequences in our Community

Do a little research and find out what some of the penalties might be if you were to get caught underage drinking at school, with the law, and with your parents.

Part Three: Binge Drinking

Binge drinking carries with it physical, mental, emotional, and social risks.

1. What does it mean to “binge drink”? Please define below.

2. Find four facts on the Internet about binge drinking from different sources. (Yes, you will need to site the source!)

Part Four: What Will You Do?

Despite all the risks, some teenagers still decide to drink. Create a story about a situation you could be in where alcohol is involved and what you would do. This could be a story you have heard happen or a fictional story you make up.

Make sure you write about something realistic. Your story should be at least four sentences long and includes specific details.

ShutterstockStation 2: Alcohol and the Brain

Listen to this news story about alcohol and the teenage brain from NPR and answer the following questions.

Teacher’s note: As this is from 2010, it could be substituted with a more current article, but I have still found this one to be the most effective. It details the ways alcohol impacts brain development differently for boys and girls, and gives some facts that really resonate with my students.

1. What was your initial reaction to the story?

2. List at least four facts that really shocked or surprised you.

3. According to the story, how often does a teenager need to binge drink to experience the negative effects on their brain?

4. Do you think that this new information will help put a stop to underage drinking?  Why or why not?  Back up your opinion with specific facts from the story.

Station 3: Making Healthy Choices

Read the recent article from CBS news entitled New Stats on Drug, Alcohol and Tobacco. Write down three facts or points that you’d like to share.

Why do you think the rates of teen substance abuse have declined? Explain your theories.

Go to the website Natural High. Watch a few videos, check out the site, and figure out what YOUR natural high is. Write a little bit about it here.

Teacher’s note: Feel free to use any of the resources to create your own lab. Also, depending on the concerns in your school or community, you can easily add stations for other drugs, tobacco, and e-cigarettes.

The secret is to keep the front-loading to a minimum and let the students teach each other. It’s a great way to give them control over the material while making sure that your info is up-to-date… Saves a lot of money on textbooks too!

To go along with this lesson, check out "The Danger Of Just One Drink" and "Alcohol Poisoning: The Death You Don't See Coming" stories from previous issues of Choices magazine!