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High School Science Could Include Opioid Education With New Program

Erik Neumann / KUER
Wendy Roberts teaches science at DaVinci Academy of Science and the Arts in Ogden. She attended the opioid curriculum meeting on Friday.

A first-of-its-kind program at the University of Utah is bringing together teachers and professors to create high school curriculum about opioids. 

Inside a plain conference room, Saratoga Springs teacher April Thompson sat with three science teachers putting pastel sticky notes on a wall. They said things like, ‘how do opiates manage pain?’ ‘tolerance’ and ‘pills vs. needles.’

“They already know about pills and needles,” Thompson said. “To me, that’s not the big concept. We’re trying to teach them how they work and how it’s an addiction.”

Thompson teaches science at Lakeview Academy where, like most schools, opioids aren’t usually taught. She and around a dozen other high school teachers were at the workshop to create a high school curriculum about opioids and addiction.

The program is being organized by the Genetic Science Learning Center. Director Louisa Stark said high school students already have access to these drugs.

“We know that they’re using these drugs. The science is at a level that is accessible to them,” Stark said.

The information behind the lesson plans is coming from faculty at the University of Utah as well as national experts, Stark said.  

The high school teachers are helping tailor the material to meet the standards they follow in biology or health and wellness classes.

Thompson has personal reasons for being here. She said some of the smartest kids she’s ever taught have died or are in jail because of opioids.

“I couldn’t figure out why as a teacher I had to spend two weeks talking about plants, when what I felt was I should spend two weeks talking about opioids and addiction because if they’re dead, it’s not going to matter if they know about plants,” Thompson said.

Organizers hope to have the information available a year from now. They plan to make the largely digital materials available for free. The program was funded with $150,000 from state lawmakers.

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