RHS class lets kids teach kidsLexi Johnson went through drug education classes when she was a sixth grader at Rosemount Middle School, but she doesn’t remember them being anything like this. Johnson remembers playing games and having fun. She certainly doesn’t remember learning things. And that, teachers will tell you, is the trick.
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
Lexi Johnson went through drug education classes when she was a sixth grader at Rosemount Middle School, but she doesn’t remember them being anything like this.
Johnson remembers playing games and having fun. She certainly doesn’t remember learning things.
And that, teachers will tell you, is the trick.
This year Johnson, now a senior at Rosemount High School, is on the other side of the lesson plan. As one of 36 students in the high school’s developmental psychology class it’s her turn now to teach sixth graders about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, about avoiding bullies and about giving and receiving compliments, among other lessons.
Johnson and the other developmental psych students make the trip up the hill to the middle school once a week to teach the lessons they’ve developed.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s a good break from the rest of my classes,” said Jillian Pearson, who figured the class would be good preparation for her planned career in youth and family ministry.”I thought it would be a good start instilling values in kids.”
Many of the teachers who sign up for developmental psych are interested in becoming teachers. Others just want to help spread positive messages.
“I think for the most part kids are initially attracted to the program because they are very strong in their conviction that drugs and alcohol and destructive choices are not a way to spend your high school years,” said teacher Jodi Rosauer. “I think these are kids who find their niche with other kids who are like-minded.”
Chris Swansson, who is in his fourth year teaching developmental psych, said students often enter the class as strangers and develop close friendships over the course of the year.
RHS is selective about the students it lets into its developmental psych class. The school got about 70 applications this year for the class. Teachers look for the students they think would be most effective as teachers.
“It’s not necessarily the kids who have the best grades. Just overall good role models,” said Swansson.
Developmental psych kids start the year as students. They cover the subjects they’re going to teach and learn about putting together a lesson plan. Then they head to the middle school. Each student works with a group of five or six middle schoolers. They sprawl in locker bays, in the cafeteria or anywhere else they can find space.
For the most part, students are on their own to come up with lesson plans. That’s not always easy.
“It takes a while to get into the lesson plan modes,” Johnson said.
On Wednesday, halfway through the 26-week lesson period, they played games like Bingo or Jeopardy to review the lessons they’d learned so far. Sixth graders called out answers about the kinds of diseases smoking can cause (lung cancer and throat cancer) or whether alcohol is a stimulant or a depressant (a depressant).
Swansson makes the rounds to all of the groups and watches his students teach, but he saves any critiques until they’re back in the classroom.
The class, which is in place at each of the district’s high schools, appears to be effective. Swansson said students frequently cite developmental psychology when asked on a statewide student survey where they got their drug education.
Students from both schools seem to enjoy the class, too. Johnson, who plans to become a teacher, said she enjoys the bond she’s formed with her students.
If student responses Wednesday are any indication, Johnson and the rest of the developmental psych students are getting their messages across.
“I think the big thing is, they like the sense of responsibility they have. There’s a lot of trust we give them to be able to teach those kids,” Swansson said. “They’re all great kids ... but once they get in front of those sixth graders and have that level of responsibility, they step up to the challenge.”
And everybody gets to have fun while they do it.