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Learning about healthy choices during Red Ribbon Week

Fourth-grade students walked away from a table in Magdalyn Rauser's classroom, holding their shirts to guard their noses from the smell of formaldehyde. At the table, Dr. Wendy Wilson, associate professor at Dickinson State University, showed the...

Dr. Wendy Wilson of Dickinson State University shows animal brains to fourth-grade students at Heart River Elementary as part of Red Ribbon Week. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)
Dr. Wendy Wilson of Dickinson State University shows animal brains to fourth-grade students at Heart River Elementary as part of Red Ribbon Week. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)
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Fourth-grade students walked away from a table in Magdalyn Rauser's classroom, holding their shirts to guard their noses from the smell of formaldehyde. At the table, Dr. Wendy Wilson, associate professor at Dickinson State University, showed the remaining students calf, mouse and sheep brains.

The display followed her presentation on the effects drugs have on the brain as part of Heart River Elementary's observance of Red Ribbon Week, a nationwide effort to raise awareness of drug abuse.

In the presentation, they listed and classified drugs as depressants and stimulants, and Wilson told them basic effects those types of drugs can have on the brain. She showed them images of a healthy brains versus images of brains on drugs to illustrate that the brain's pleasure centers don't function as well on drugs.

Earlier in the week, the school brought in a police officer and a canine officer to talk with kids about safety and drug prevention. The officer gave a demonstration with a drug-detecting dog.

"They love that. It's very engaging for them," Toril Sanford, school counselor, said.

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Today, the students and staff will wear red and arrange themselves in the shape of a ribbon for a photograph.

"Red Ribbon Week is about teaching them how to be healthy, safe individuals," Sanford said. "There is that focus on drug and alcohol awareness, but also just on making those choices that are going to help them be the most successful version of themselves."

Most local schools are having themed dress-up days, with a few doing additional activities.

Dickinson Middle School focused less on drugs specifically, and more on healthy behaviors.

"We try really hard to put the focus on being kind to other people ... and avoiding those risk behaviors or preventing bullying by being kind," said Trista Dakken, school counselor. They try to focus less on the negative and more on the positive, she added.

That's why the days are themed as they are, said Jackson Melvin, member of the student council. Themes included "Friends make friends better" and "Unite for kindness."

As part of their theme of togetherness, they celebrated Unity Day by wearing orange.

Red Ribbon Week was started by the National Family Partnership in 1988 as a means to "present a unified and visible commitment towards the creation of a drug free America." It is the oldest and largest drug prevention program in the country.

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Dr. Wendy Wilson of DSU calls on fifth-grade students of Heart River Elementary to explain what the brain does, during her presentation for Red Ribbon Week. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)
Dr. Wendy Wilson of DSU calls on fifth-grade students of Heart River Elementary to explain what the brain does, during her presentation for Red Ribbon Week. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)

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