rrw best practices

Best Practices for Red Ribbon Week

Published on: August 31, 2021   |   Last updated on:

3 Best Practices for Natural High’s Red Ribbon Week Content and Curriculum

Red Ribbon Week is the nation’s oldest and largest drug prevention awareness campaign. For over thirty-five years, schools have designated October 23-31 to have targeted, specific conversations with students of every grade level about the dangers of substance use.

There are only a few opportunities throughout the year to take a pause in your regularly scheduled programming and educate your students on the dangers of experimenting with substances. Red Ribbon Week is the perfect time to have these important conversations. 

We know that teachers are busy and don’t always have the capacity to spend a lot of time preparing lesson plans, workshops, or assemblies. So, we’re here to help!

Natural High is a youth drug prevention and life skills program that provides easy, effective, and fun resources for educators, mentors, and parents to use with kids. We are dedicated to empowering young people to make good choices and live life well.

Our name ‘Natural High’ refers to the feeling that comes from finding passions, interests, and talents and cultivating those activities in life that truly inspire us

Our program:

  • Is based on current scientific findings on youth behavior, brain development, and the power of storytelling
  • Is flexible and includes videos, discussion questions, and activities
  • Can be used to meet a variety of needs, from brief 10-15-minute discussions to project based work that takes place across multiple days or class periods

It promotes several of the assets and developmental skills that have been identified as necessary for positive youth development: 

  • Identifying and engaging in a positive activity/passion (e.g. natural highs)
  • Peer pressure and refusal strategies
  • Goal setting and reaching your potential
  • Identifying positive role models
  • Making choices based on personal values
  • Discernment of true and false messages about drugs and living drug-free

3 tips for how you can use our Red Ribbon Week content effectively with your students:

1. Follow our 3 easy-to-use program steps: 

  1. Watch a video
  2. Discuss as a class or in small groups
  3. Go deeper using one of our suggested activities 

Click to learn more about our program.

Our lesson plans are for grades 4-12 and include 5 days of videos, discussion questions, and activities. In these short, engaging videos, students meet athletes, artists, and musicians (we call them Storytellers) in a behind-the-scenes way, hearing how they’ve navigated the temptation to use harmful substances and sharing what makes them come alive – their natural high.

We know the more times kids see positive messages the better. So take this opportunity to show one of our videos each day of the week. You can follow along with our suggested sequence, or choose your own adventure by picking a video from our Storyteller Library

Each video has a set of discussion questions that teachers can use or adapt to meet their needs. Often, teachers will show one of our videos to their students and then ask them to write their responses to the discussion questions in a journal. Another option is to ask students to share their responses and reflections with their peers in partners or small groups. 

You may consider watching the video together as a class one day and giving a writing assignment for 15-minutes using our reflection questions. On the next day, assign your students into small breakout groups to watch the video and discuss the questions together aloud.

In addition to discussion questions, we have a variety of activities for each Storyteller that teachers can use in a plug-and-play fashion. The activities are built to let students do the heavy lifting, giving them practice with essential literacy and critical thinking skills while learning about living naturally high. Lessons focus on critical reading, writing, speaking, research, and data analysis standards, which are relevant across many subjects.

2. Bust myths about teen drug use:

Kids inevitably assume that most kids are using drugs and alcohol, but research has found that when kids learn the truth, that not as many kids are using substances as they think,  they’re less likely to use them, too. 

As the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation reports, “sharing healthy truths can reduce student use of alcohol and other drugs.”

Arming your students with the facts is actually quite an effective prevention strategy. We have an activity you can use with your students to help bust the myths of teenage substance use. You can find it here.

If we correct misperceptions and misinformation about how many kids are actually using substances, our kids will be better off. If we offer them positive and aspirational examples of people who are deemed ‘cool’ and lead healthy, clean, lifestyles — and deliberately point that out — then we can actually alter their normal instinctual habits. That’s it. That’s what we’re all about and what we’re trying to do with our videos and curriculum.

3. Take the pledge to live naturally high

It’s not enough to tell kids not to do something; you’ve got to give them something better as an alternative. Natural High offers a positive approach to substance use prevention. It’s about saying “yes” to life and helping kids identify their goals and passions. 

Have your students take the pledge to live naturally high. Signing a pledge, and including friends, a teacher, a parent or guardian, can help keep students accountable for making good decisions.

Click here to take the pledge online, or print it out for students to sign and post in your classroom.

When schools use our (free) Red Ribbon Week lesson plans, they can be confident that their students will have the right education and conversations to make healthier, wiser choices. We take all the prep off your plate so teachers can do what they do best. 

Red Ribbon Week will be here before you know it. What’s your plan?

We’re often engaging in conversations with teachers across the country who are adapting our curriculum and activities to their context, and so many of their ideas are valuable to share with others. Tell us on social: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

Related article: Create Meaningful Red Ribbon Week Distance Learning Activity


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