A Drug Evaluation Curriculum with Drama as Its Base: The Target Project

Article excerpt

The authors discuss that the curriculum design of the TARGET group is based on the life-saving metaphor to guide the program beyond what has been experienced in the past as a broken record practice about resistance to substance misuse and abuse. The first premise is that the personal capacity for residing or being resilient toward risk-taking situations is strengthened when the meaning of activities is developed in the context of drama. All students ignite a major portion of the TARGET curriculum seeing a live play entitled "I am the Brother of Dragons". The authors finally point out that drug programs, such as D.A.R.E and Pride, in combination with TARGET are finally showing some results and perhaps one without the other is not as effective. However, we know that one of the major reasons TARGET is effective is because of the drama activities that elicit more of emotional reaction from students than a cognitive one.

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In 1997, an educational program began in Morgantown, West Virginia, with the idea that the best time to implement a drug education curriculum was with seventh graders. Studies have shown that this is the time that young people begin their experimentation with drugs, smoking, and alcohol. According to the results of a national survey on drug use, among eighth graders, 52% have tried alcohol, 41% have tried cigarettes, and 20% have tried marijuana (Johnson, O'Malley, and Bachman as cited in Ellickson, McCaffrey, Ghosh-Dastidar and Longshore, 2003). With the support of a grant from Monongalia Health Systems, West Virginia's professional regional theatre, West Virginia Public Theatre, in cooperation with Monongalia Public School District, conducted a series of workshops for selected seventh grade teachers in the area. The results of these workshops produced a curriculum for the TARGET program.

Review of the Literature

The negative effects of alcohol and drug abuse among young people are well documented. For many years, educators have seen the adverse effects on students' academic performance, attendance, and behavior (Ostrower, 1987). Of even greater concern is the impact on traffic accidents and deaths, unsafe sexual practices, and other risky behaviors (Jones and Lacey; and Martin and Lynch as cited in Ellickson et al., 2003). Winston (2001) states, "Drug abuse among the young is seen as one of the major social problems of our time and drug education has become a preoccupation of Western governments" (p. 39).

Over the past 30 years, school-based drug prevention programs have evolved from a focus on information-providing (1960s to early 1970s) to personal development (early 1970s to early 1980s) and then to the social influence model, which has prevailed to the present (Cuijpers, 2003). The most widely implemented drug use prevention program in the United States is the D.A.R.E. program (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), created in 1983 by a collaboration between the Los Angeles Police Department and the local school district and disseminated nationally with the support of federal funds to communities through the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1986 (Perry, Komro and Veblen-Mortenson, 2000; Smyer, 1991). Despite the popularity of the D.A.R.E. program, research studies conflict in their conclusions as to its effectiveness (Knowles, 2001; Lynam et al., 1999; Perry and Veblen-Mortenson, 2000). Cuijpers (2003) states that "many well-designed studies have shown that it has no significant effects on drug abuse"(p. 15).

Drug prevention programs that have shown most effective have been implemented in middle school/junior high curricula, have spanned a period of several years, and have had multiple program components (Perry, Komro and Veblen-Mortenson, 2000, p. 85). A few references to the use of drama as one element in alcohol and drug education programs were found in the literature. Winston (2001) reports that many educators in the field of personal and social education as well as in the field of Drama and Theatre in Education feel that dramatic activities are a valuable tool for drug education efforts. …