Exploring and Applying Vaping Education within the Elementary H&PE Curriculum Webinar Blog
On April 27, 2021, Ophea hosted a webinar about exploring and applying vaping education within the elementary Health & Physical Education (H&PE) curriculum. The session was formulated around three themes to provide educators with an opportunity to:
- examine the scope and sequence of learning about vaping within the H&PE curriculum for grades 4-8,
- learn more about and apply a harm reduction approach when engaging students in conversations about vaping through scenarios, and
- learn about strategies, lesson plans and resources available to support vaping education.
Educators shared learning strategies around three interconnected themes based on Ophea’s lesson plans and resources before participants had the opportunity to engage in small group discussions.
We would like to thank the co-presenters:
- Deniece Bell, a Health & Physical Education teacher with the Peel District School Board.
- Andrea Haefele, a Health & Physical Education teacher with the York Region District School Board and currently seconded as a curriculum consultant at Ophea.
- Joanne Walsh, a Sessional Instructor with the Faculty of Education at Brock University and a curriculum consultant for Ophea
Theme 1: Curriculum Entry Points and Strategies for Engaging Students in Learning about Vaping
Vaping education can be addressed as one of the broader health concepts in response to student needs, and to support students in developing their health literacy. The overall expectations describe the skills and concepts that are required for healthy, active living at any age or stage of development so provide educators with the latitude to engage students in conversations about a myriad of health concepts to support their health and long-term well-being. Joanne shared the valuable reminder that students may need to know about vaping and develop skills to respond to situations involving vaping at any grade and stage of their development, and that these expectations provide one entry point to engage students in conversations about vaping.
Joanne highlighted that vaping education is also included in the specific expectations in the Grade 4 and 6 Healthy Living strand and referenced in the examples, teacher prompts, and student responses in other elementary grades. In Grade 4, students learn the basics of vaping and apply assertive, refusal, and decision making skills to make healthy informed choices about vaping. In Grade 5, students apply decision making, assertive and refusal skills to deal pertaining to behaviours such as vaping. In Grade 6, students explore factors that influence drug use, using decision making skills to make safe personal choices about drugs, including the choice to abstain. In Grade 7 and 8, students make connections between problematic substance use and mental health problems, and learn about the warning signs and the consequences that can occur.
Andrea shared her experiences with teaching vaping in the junior grades and reminds educators to think ahead to prepare their students for situations they may encounter as they grow and develop. “I focus the learning on providing my students with the knowledge and social-emotional learning skills they need to prepare them for situations they may encounter involving substance use, such as vaping, as they develop and move into the later years of elementary and the early years of secondary school.”
What’s more, Andrea shared how she uses the scenarios in the Ophea H&PE Curriculum Resources: Grade 4, Substance Use and Injury Prevention: Making Healthy Decisions, lesson plans to provide her students with the opportunity to think ahead about their choices and decisions and practice communicating their decisions. Andrea also shared how she adapts the activity, Artistically Speaking from Ophea’s Ideas for Action: Cannabis Education guide. This activity helps students identify their feelings about vaping and identify sources of stress as well as different ways to communicate through an artistic lens. Students express their thoughts and feelings through painting or drawing, using pictures, images, and words.
Deniece also reminds educators of the importance of knowing their students’ prior knowledge and experiences, and questions they have, to make sure students are prepared for conversations about topics such as vaping. “In the intermediate level of learning students rely on their peers for information. Students have questions about what they are hearing and seeing about substances, such as vaping. By grade 7, students are familiar with vaping so the conversations focus on who and what influences their decisions and how these influences are connected to, and aligned with, their sense of self, values, culture, religion.” These conversations help students build their social-emotional learning skills by further developing their self-awareness and sense of identity, enabling them to make choices that support their well-being.
Deniece shared strategies for using technology to engage students in informed conversations about the consequences of vaping such as the Government of Canada, Don’t Drive High video, which illustrates situations in which students may find themselves.1 “I use a Think/Pair/Share strategy with these videos to facilitate peer to peer conversations and create a safer space for students to share their ideas and perspectives. The goal is to ensure that students at this stage of their development are equipped to make decisions authentic to their situation and lives, and communicate those decisions to family, friends and others in their community.”
Theme 2: Apply a Harm Reduction Approach When Engaging Students in Conversations about Vaping
Joanne provided a summary of some of the principles of harm reduction that educators can apply to approach the topic of vaping with sensitivity, and create safer, more inclusive spaces when engaging students in learning about vaping. Harm Reduction includes adopting a stance that is both nonjudgmental and compassionate, understanding that there are a variety of reasons why people may choose to use drugs, some of which are quite complex. It is about accepting that drug use is part of our world rather than ignoring or condemning it, and respecting an individual's decisions and choices about drug use, even when they differ from our own, including the right to access services regardless of their choices.
Harm reduction also focuses on reducing the social and physical harm that may result from the using substances, and making safer choices. Abstinence may be a potential goal, but it is not the only acceptable option.2
Joanne highlighted that, as educators, adopting this approach means recognizing that as much as we focus on prevention, students may still engage in drug use. Using this approach empowers students with the knowledge and social-emotional learning skills they need to make informed decisions and take responsibility as they develop and become more independent.
Andrea shared that acknowledging that drug use may be a part of her students' experience beyond the classroom reminds her of the importance of adopting a non-judgemental stance and to think about the language she uses when addressing topics such as vaping. Andrea shared strategies for adapting the Target Your Influences activity from Ophea’s Ideas for Action: Cannabis Education for students to consider the people, factors, and influences in their lives, and make decisions and take action when in situations involving vaping. “It is relevant to my students' lives; they think about their personal influences such as family, friends, neighbours, the media, their culture, religion and/or prior experiences. It helps students identify their values and is powerful for intentionally embedding social-emotional learning.”
Deniece reflected that adopting a harm reduction approach helps educators understand their students and their students’ lives. “I am a trusted source for them. So, in using this approach I provide them with credible, relevant information in a space that allows them to be seen, heard, and valued, and feel empowered to make decisions that they are confident in, and that align with their values. This approach helps students develop their sense of self and identify, by guiding them in formulating their choices and decisions, and communicating their decisions when involved in situations involving vaping.”
Deniece also shared strategies for using Ophea’s Grade 7 activity Cannabis Use and Health Effects in Ophea’s Cannabis Education Resources to integrate media literacy and provide students with creative methods for expressing and communicating their ideas, choices, and decisions about vaping. “Providing my students with voice and choice engages them in learning while demonstrating their understanding of the consequences of substance use such as vaping, and empowers them to use their critical thinking skills to make informed decisions.”
Theme 3: Strategies, Lesson Plans and Resources for Vaping Education
Ophea’s Writeable Assessment Tools may be used in a variety of settings to engage students in conversations about vaping. These sample tools such as Gallery Walk, KWLQ chart and Think/ Pair/ Share Graphic Organizer help engage students in partner and small group discussion to express their ideas, choices, and decisions before, or instead of, sharing with the larger group.
During the webinar, participants had the opportunity to engage in a small group, peer facilitated sharing session to reflect on and apply their learning using student scenarios from Ophea’s H&PE Curriculum Resources: Grades 1-8 Lesson Plans and question prompts.
Participants were encouraged to continue to consolidate and share their learning with colleagues in their school community. Ophea’s Cannabis Education: Activate the Discussion - Elementary School Discussion Guide was shared as a tool that may be adapted to foster further discussions about vaping education.
- Ask Us: Vaping and Making Connections to the Elementary H&PE Curriculum Webinar
- Ask Us: Vaping and Making Connections to the Elementary H&PE Curriculum Webinar Blog
- Clearing the Air about Cannabis Q&A Column Series
- Boak, A., Elton-Marshall, T., Mann, R.Hamilton, H. (2020). Drug Use Among Ontario Students, 1977–2019: Detailed Findings From the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS). Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
- Principles of Harm Reduction, National Harm Reduction Coalition
- The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: Health and Physical Education, 2019 - revised (gov.on.ca)- page 300-302 (Appendix D)
Resources for Classrooms
- Government of Canada: Don't Drive High
- Ophea’s Cannabis Education Resources
- Ophea’s Ideas for Action: Cannabis Education
- Ophea H&PE Curriculum Resources: Grades 1-8 (Lesson Plans)
- Grade 4: Substance Use and Injury Prevention: Making Healthy Choices, Lesson 2: The Impact of Smoke and Vaping on the Body
- Grade 4: Substance Use and Injury Prevention: Making Healthy Choices, Lesson 4: Making Healthy and Safe Decisions: Part I
- Grade 5: Healthy Decision Making, Lesson 1: Factors That Affect My Decisions
- Grade 6: Making Healthy Choices, Lesson 4: Influencing Choices
- Grade 7: Making Choices for Personal Health, Lesson 5: What Would You Do?
- Grade 8: Keep Yourself Safe, Lesson 3: The Dangers of Substance Use
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1 Government of Canada. (2021). Don’t Drive High. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/campaign/don-t-drive-high.html
2 Harm Reduction International. (2021). What is Harm Reduction. Extracted from https://harmreduction.org/about-us/principles-of-harm-reduction/