Along with some of her peers, 12-year-old Kaya Kusmierczuk was a little disgusted about the thought of someone ingesting toilet bowl cleaner.
The cleaner’s sulfuric acid is one of the ingredients found in meth, a highly addictive drug.
“Drugs are bad and cause different things,” Kaya said while talking about the harmful effect.
It was one of several lessons she received during Health Rocks in Sampson County, hosted by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s 4-H Summer Workshop. The purpose was to educate participants on making decisions and refusing drugs, tobacco and alcohol.
Kendall Pope, 9, felt the same way about the harmful substances. Like Kaya, he also learned about the negative effects on the human body.
“Drugs are bad for you and can make you have cancer,” Kendall said. “It’s also bad for your teeth.”
For Daniel Collins, extension agent for 4-H Youth Development, Health Rocks is not the typical “Just say no” program.
“This program really hits home with hands-on aspects and experiences,” he said about the negative effects.
It’s something Collins helped pilot in Virginia. The national funded program is new to the summer workshop series and to the local extension office. About 15 children, ages 9 to 14, participated.
“Those older kids really took the younger kids under their wings when they were doing activities,” Collins said.
He plans to expand the program throughout the school year, after more people wanted to join.
During the three-day workshop, participants enjoyed making posters for a contest, one of several activities hosted during the workshop. One of the favorites was an activity which safely simulated how it feels to be a smoker for a period of time. Different sized straws and breathing techniques were used to get the uncomfortable feeling. Exercise was also added to the mix to show the harmful effects.
“That really blew their mind,” Collins said.
Another activity was the “The Chains That Bind,” a stress related activity. The students were shown alternatives to drugs such as enjoying outdoors. To demonstrate, the children were taken to Jones Lake State Park. During the visit, the students enjoyed swimming and a presentation from a taxidermist.
Although there’s many media campaigns telling students to say no, Collins believes programs such as Health Rocks is still essential.
“There are more and more kids dying from drug abuse in middle school and high school,” he said. “Prescription drugs are turning into a major epidemic too. I just feel that if we can push this hard, they can combat it and learn those decision-making skills at the same time.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.