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Students teaching students
Farmington Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

Peer pressure took a whole different turn recently in Deb Weimelt's eighth grade health classes at Farmington Middle School West.

It is not unusual for kids of that age to talk about crack cocaine, Ecstasy, and other drugs. And it is perfectly natural for students to be curious about what those "highs" might be like.

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But in Weimelt's class the past 10 days or so, students have been teaching students about what drugs can do -- and not in a positive light.

This year, Weimelt is trying something different. She turned over her class periods to her students. Before the holidays, she provided each class with a list of 34 types of common drugs and each student had to select one to research.

The task before the students was to learn all they could, so they could teach classmates about those drugs. They spent a couple of days in the computer lab doing research, and a few more days poring over reference books from the media center. Then, they had to develop a classroom presentation.

And then, they had to be ready to teach their peers.

Presentations

The topics are pretty much the same -- drugs are bad, this is why they should be avoided. But Weimelt and the students, graded the projects, too. The other students had to pay attention, because one question from each presentation is being included on finals later this week.

"I think that's why they've taken this so seriously," Weimelt said.

This was not the ordinary student report, either. Students had to create visual aids that documented things like consequences, where the drugs come from, how the drugs are taken, why people find the drug appealing, how people can become addicted, available support groups and laws surrounding each one.

Each day, students heard from two to three of their peers. Some chose to use PowerPoint presentations for their visual aids. Others made worksheets and tipped off classmates about topics within the presentation that might turn up on that final. When Jessie Golnick did her presentation, she used an easel to show her statistics, but also used a crossword puzzle format to share the answers to her questions. Another student told his classmates to get out their highlighters and tipped them off on which topics to highlight -- Weimelt noted that the latter is a system that particular student uses to organize his own notes.

"It's so fun to see them. I think the way they want to be taught is how they teach," Weimelt said.

Some of the students are a little uncomfortable speaking before their classmates. Others have taken on the task as if they are on stage.

This is the first time Weimelt has tried letting students teach each other, and she has enjoyed the experience. Besides learning a bit herself -- like how her students process the information she gives them -- she thinks the students are coming away with a better understanding of what it is like to be a teacher.

"I think it's fun for them, too, to see what it's like to be in my shoes," she said.

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