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Mock Grant Competition Gives Seventh Graders Insight on Alcohol Abuse


Informing, sharing, and communicating their research on adolescent alcohol abuse are ways seventh graders at Somers Middle School prepared for a mock grant competition.

Students in Jesse Arnett’s health classes at Somers Middle School assumed roles as neuropsychologists working as consultants to an adolescent alcohol rehabilitation center vying for a $25 million dollar “government grant.” 

5 girls in hallwayUsing the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program learner profile skill of communication as their guide, student teams researched alcohol’s effects on the brain by studying articles and looking at brain scans of teenagers who drank versus those who did not. They also conducted their own field sobriety tests by using Fatal Vision goggles that simulate impaired vision from alcohol and then summarized how alcohol affects the brain, influences behavior, and alters lifestyle decisions.

“Putting themself in a real-life scenario in which their research and communication helps determine the outcome of a competition for a grant helps them apply what they have learned and makes the learning meaningful,” Arnett said. “I am impressed with our students’ ability to focus on the skill of communication throughout this project.”

To win the “grant” money, students had to present their findings to a panel of judges in evidence-based Fact Sharing Forums. The judges were Somers Middle School educators.

For the team of winners in period 2, Emily Boyle, Smera Thekkenmar, Olivia Tatela, and Charly Hirsch, being able to take part in the field sobriety tests and wearing the Fatal Vision goggles during their project were eye-opening.

“The thing that jumped out at me the most is the feeling of disconnect from yourself when you are impaired,” Boyle said of her experience wearing the goggles.

“It surprised me how hard it was throwing and catching with the goggles on,” Hirsch and Tatela added.

Students said the key lesson for their team was learning the early age at which young people begin drinking and the prevalence of binge drinking among adolescents.

The team of Maylin Mora and Andrea Ruiz Velasquez, who won in period 6, said their biggest takeaway from the experience was researching the long-term effects on teen drinking.

“I learned not only how alcohol affects you now but how it can affect your future,” Mora said.

Velasquez said the feeling of instability she felt while trying to even walk while wearing of the Fatal Vision goggles was an experience she will not forget. 

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