What might have looked like a set design for a teen drama was actually an education tool for parents.
During the Dickinson High School's parent teacher conferences, the school's auditorium stage was designed to look like the bedroom of a teenage boy and girl - with a twist. Inside the "room" were what appeared to be everyday objects including a water bottle, a can of Arizona tea, a hair brush, a flash drive. Upon closer inspection, those items were not so innocuous. They were flasks, vapes, bongs and containers for drugs.
The project was designed and staged by the school's health careers students in conjunction with the Southwest District Health Unit
"It’s something that they (the students) work on totally," said Karen Goyne, behavioral health nurse at Southwest District Health. "We just assist them with the financial part, if need be. We give them direction. For example, their initial idea would have been to hide the items, but we didn’t want to because the theory is that it’s in plain sight."
The students gave Southwest District Health a list of items they would like to include in the project, and the agency purchased them through its Partnership for Success grant, which aims to help prevent underage drinking.
The water bottle?
"There’s actually water in it, but the center section that’s covered by the label actually unscrews apart, and it can be an area where you could hide prescription pills or pot or whatever you wanted to, and nobody would be the wiser," Goyne said.
The health careers classes included items that students at the school were found to have used, including vapes, which come in familiar shapes that might make them hard to identify.
"The Juul vape looks like a jump drive. The little charge part goes into a computer where you can charge it, and then you put it back on the Juul, and (the Juul) is charged," said Bobbie Johnson, health careers teacher.
School Resource Officer Brandon Stockie and Assistant Principal Jay Hepperle contributed additional items that they had confiscated from students, including a vape watch.
Johnson said they hope to continue the project, possibly as early as the next parent-teacher night on Feb. 12.
"I think as we do it, we’ll just get better at making sure we include things that students are using so that parents can be aware and hopefully talk to their kids about it. It’s about starting a conversation," she said.
She estimates that about 62 parents went through the mock-room on Wednesday, Dec. 4.
Student Whitney Tiegs, a senior in health careers who helped with the project, said no parent located all 21 items.
"They went through and they tried to identify all the objects that they thought could be related to it. We had them write them all down on the checklist. After they were all done, we went through and showed them what objects they missed and how the objects worked."
Stockie was there to talk to the parents about the items and answer any questions they might have had.
"We did have the parents do a survey, and a lot of them said it was really helpful," Tiegs said.
Tiegs' favorite part of the project was her interactions with one particular parent.
"I offered the mom and the dad both the clipboard, and the dad was like, ‘No. I don’t want that.’ … After he went through the room, he actually came up to me and he was like, 'Thank you for doing this. I really wasn’t looking forward to it, but I enjoyed it, and it was really eye-opening.’ It was reassurance for us that we were doing the right thing. "