Beth, Juan, Jay, and Latisha sit in the Brain Power! club house. There is a sense of tension as the kids whisper to their teammates about who may be ahead in the game. Corty comes in and says, “Hi, kids! Glad to see you’re all sitting together – kind of. At least you’re in the same room. I’m here to bring you the final mission, and you’re all going to work on it together.”
“All right! Now we can have a neck and neck competition,” Juan says. “This is our chance to shine!” Latisha says.
Corty says, “I mean all together. Now, the mission is to learn more about addiction.”
“We already know about addiction,” says Beth. “That’s too easy.”
“I know you know a little about addiction. However, this mission will help you answer the question that’s been on all of our minds,” says Corty.
“Who’s going to win the competition?” suggests Juan.
“No! Forget about the competition for a minute. Learning about addiction will tell us why people continue to use harmful drugs even though they know the drugs are bad for them,” Corty says. “Now, who can describe addiction?”
Beth says, “Addiction is a disease of the brain that comes from drug use.”
Corty asks, “How does addiction affect the brain?”
Jay replies, “It affects the neurotransmitters. It changes the way they function, so the messages aren’t loud and clear like they should be. They’re garbled, like a bad telephone connection.”
Corty says, “What else do drugs do to the neurotransmitters – Brain Power!kids?” Beth and Juan exchange glances – they’re not sure.
Beth says, “I guess we didn’t do the mission on neurotransmission, so we’re not sure.”
Corty says, “Right. The other team did. But you aren’t talking to them. Too bad. Now you do know how addiction affects the brain, right?”
“Yeah. Addiction changes the brain so that even if someone stops using a drug, it takes a while for the brain to get back to normal. And sometimes it never does,” says Juan.
“Right. Spectacular Scientistskids, what can cocaine do to someone who uses it?” asks Corty. Latisha and Jay look at each other and shrug – they don’t know.
Corty asks, “Do you know what class of drugs cocaine is in?” They look at each other again and shake their heads.
“Cocaine is a stimulant,” Beth says. “We didn’t learn about stimulants,” says Jay.
“The Brain Power! kids did. Hmmm. Should have worked together. I’ll bet the Brain Power! kids can’t tell us what effects inhalants have on the brain,” says Corty. Beth and Jay look at each other and shake their heads.
Latisha says, “Inhalants affect the cerebral cortex, the cerebellum, and the brain stem.” “We didn’t learn about inhalants,” says Juan. The kids sigh and look unhappy, finally understanding that they should have worked together and feeling bad that they didn’t.
Beth says, “Um, I guess we kind of all missed out because we were so busy competing instead of working together. Is it too late to try being a team?”
“Let’s do it!” says Latisha.
Corty does a little victory dance. “Woo-hoo. Woo-hoo. It took you too long, but now I’m singin’ my song. You learned teamwork late, but it was well worth the wait!”
The kids pull out their charts and body outlines, and exchange notes on what they learned.
Corty says, “So now let’s answer the question we’re all asking.”
Beth says, “Why do people continue to use harmful drugs even when they know the drugs are bad for them? We haven’t figured that out yet.”
Corty says, “Well, let’s figure it out now. We’ll start by learning some more about addiction. Do you know some of the signs of addiction?” The kids look at each other, and then shake their heads. They don’t know.
Corty says, “One is called tolerance—the longer someone takes a drug, the more of the drug they need to get the same feeling from it. Of course, a person is supposed to continue taking drugs that a doctor prescribes for him or her for medical reasons. That person would not be considered addicted to those medicines.
Another sign is compulsive use—when someone needs to use a drug over and over again, even if bad things are happening, like with the people they love, or their job, or with the police!
And then, there’s withdrawal. Do you know what that is?” The kids shake their heads. Corty says, “That’s when people need the drug to keep from feeling bad. With cocaine, for instance, if a user can’t get it, they get depressed and nauseated, and they feel like they’ll do anything to get it.” The kids are listening closely.
Stop here until students have finished their scrapbooks.
When Corty gets back, all the kids are playing the game the Spectacular Scientists Club kids designed. Corty says, “Well, if you’re playing a game, that must mean you’ve figured out the answer to our question.”
Juan says, “I think we did!” Beth says, “Well, it seems people start using drugs for all different reasons…” Jay adds, “But the reason they keep using them is addiction.&rdquo
Latisha says, “Once someone is addicted to a drug, it’s very hard to stop using it because addiction makes the brain need the drug.” Beth says, “And addiction is very serious and very hard to overcome.”
“Very good! Excellent teamwork. So, can you sum up what you’ve learned in these six missions?” asks Corty. They go over to the blackboard and whisper together for a moment. Then Jay writes the answer on the blackboard, complete with happy and sad faces.
Jay writes, “Drugs and addiction mess up the way the brain is supposed to work! And teamwork helps us to understand things better than we could on our own!”
Corty applauds, and says, “Great work! And now the reward. Spectacular Scientists Club members, I now pronounce you Junior Scientists. Everyone, take your ‘Teamwork Rules’ T-shirts.”
The kids each grab a shirt from a pile Corty indicates. They put them on, and jump up and down in their excitement.
Brain Power Video Modules: Grades 4-5
T-shirts, Stickers, and Buttons: Grades 4-5
As a result of scientific research, we know that addiction is a disease that affects both brain and behavior.