"A gateway to where?"
To learn that marijuana is considered a gateway drug and what that means.
Marijuana is considered one of the three gateway drugs. The other two are alcohol and
tobacco. These three are considered gateway drugs because they are readily accessed and
the use of them often leads to involvement with more harmful drugs and the situations
where these more dangerous drugs are found.
Although these three gateway drugs are
illegal for use by this age group, they may be accessible because, at least in the case of
tobacco and alcohol, they are readily used in society and often by parents and older
siblings. Many adults do not realize it, but marijuana is also easily accessible and is
used by older siblings and some parents of students of this age. Students in surveys often
report that their first experience with alcohol was finishing a glass of wine left on the
dinner table by a parent. Marijuana may in fact be a drug that an older sibling encourages
a younger one to try, believing it is not really harmful and mitigating his or her own
guilt by having a younger sibling use it. The facts are very clear. When an individual
starts using one drug, he/she is likely to try other drugs ones that may be more
harmful, more addictive, and put the user in more danger. The younger a person starts
using any drug the more likely that it will become a problem and other drug usage will
Fourth to sixth grade students can
understand the concept of a gateway. It is an opening that can lead in many directions and
from which many paths emerge. Making responsible decisions about which path to choose is
important and requires knowledge, skill, and strength. Students of this age are very
interested in Horatio Alger type stories in which the hero overcame odds or
chose a particular path that led him/her to greatness. Gateways are placed before all of
us regularly. It is important that we see them as passageways with the potential to take
us in positive or negative directions. The opportunity to use tobacco, alcohol, or
marijuana presents us with such a gateway.
Poster board, paper, crayons or colored marker, access to a library or a collection of
library books in the classroom.
Students can be very interested and excited about how famous athletes, movie stars,
politicians overcame the odds and made good decisions about the gateways in their lives.
It is important for them to understand that they can do likewise. Thus, during this
lesson, teachers need to be particularly sensitive to students making beginning steps
toward taking charge of their lives and reward them for these beginning steps. To remain
drug free throughout adolescence, it is very important that they begin setting realistic
goals for themselves and have the skill to deal with being confronted with the possibility
of using one of the gateway drugs.
As a warm-up to this lesson, have each student depict a gateway on paper or poster board
with crayons or colored markers. Leading from each gateway should be paths that describe
directions each students life could take. These posters should be displayed and the
messages from them shared with each member of the class. For the longer-term, have the
students select a library biography book chronicling the life of a person who overcame
adversity by choosing an appropriate path out of the gateway. Have them discuss what the
adversity was and what decisions were made to overcome it. Students should be encouraged
to talk with their parents about gateways in their lives and how they handled them
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