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Brain Power: Grades 4-5

Introductory Story for Module 5

Jay and Latisha are snooping around the Brain Power! Clubhouse. Latisha asks Jay, “So, how do you think we’re doing in the competition, so far?”

Jay responds, “I think we’re doing really well. That board game we made up was way cool.” Latisha agrees.

“If we get one more good mission, we can pull ahead of the Brain Power!kids and win the competition. I know they think they’ll win, but I don’t think so,” says Jay. “Maybe we can even get to be Junior Scientists.”

“No doubt about it. In fact, we should probably go ahead and have the T-shirts made up right now: ‘Spectacular Scientists Rule!’” Latisha smiles and takes a book off a shelf and finds – Corty!

Corty is hiding behind the book she pulls out. Jay jumps back in surprise. Corty laughs. He’s wearing a T-shirt that says “Teamwork Rules!” Corty says, “Hi, kids! I’ve got the perfect mission for you to work on with the Junior Scientists. How ’bout it?” Jay says, “No way! We’re gonna beat them at their own game. We can solve this without any help from them.”

Corty sighs and says, “All right. Your mission today is to learn about drugs. The drugs we’re going to talk about affect a person’s brain and nervous system. They can even change the brain.”

Latisha asks, “Are they legal?”

“One is. Here’s a hint. It was in the ad you kids were looking at a few missions ago,” says Corty.

“Alcohol? But that’s only legal for adults, not for kids,” says Jay.

“Exactly. Another one is marijuana,” says Corty.

“That’s illegal for everyone,” says Latisha.

“Right. The third is inhalants – those are chemical fumes that people sniff or inhale. Inhalants can be very dangerous. Now, your mission is to learn more about the drugs we talked about. You’re going to draw a picture of the body and show how those drugs affect our brains, bodies, and nervous systems.”

Jay says, “Let’s see. So that’s alcohol, marijuana, and inhalants. Wow! That sounds like a challenge. But we’re up to it!” Corty leaves as Latisha and Jay begin work on their drawings.

Stop here until the students have finished their drawings.

Corty comes back as the kids are putting the final touches on their body outlines, labeling them with the major effects of the drugs. Corty says, “Wow! Great job! Tell me about them.”

Latisha says, “Well, marijuana goes by a lot of names. It’s the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States.” As Latisha talks, she points to parts of the body outline. She continues, “In the brain, marijuana mostly affects the basal ganglia and cerebellum, which help us move, and the cerebral cortex, which helps us think and communicate. So when people smoke marijuana, they can seem uncoordinated, and they may not make much sense when they talk.”

Jay says, “Alcohol is found in beer, wine, and liquor. It affects your brain and almost every other organ of your body.” Jay also points to the body outline as he talks. He says, “In the brain, alcohol mostly affects the cerebral cortex, so heavy drinkers have slurred speech and sometimes they don’t make sense. It also affects the limbic system, which controls our emotions, and the brain stem, which is in charge of the basics—like breathing! But alcohol also interferes with the way messages are carried by neurotransmitters. So, basically, it affects everything a person does.”

Jay adds, “People who are dependent on alcohol may have a disease called alcoholism.”

“Inhalants are also really scary,” says Latisha. “They seem harmless because you can find them in everyday household items like paint thinner, nail polish remover, and rubber cement. They won’t hurt you if you use them for what they’re supposed to be used for, but some people breathe in inhalants on purpose. And when the chemicals enter the bloodstream directly through the lungs, they get to the brain fast and can do a lot of damage.”

Latisha points to the brain area of the body outline and continues, “Inhalants affect the structure of the brain, including the cerebral cortex, the cerebellum, and the brain stem. They also affect the frontal cortex, which is important for solving complex problems, and the hippocampus, which helps us remember things.” Latisha adds, “Inhalants can also cause nerve damage, hearing loss, and liver problems. They can even kill a person from a heart attack or suffocation.”

Corty says, “That is pretty scary stuff.”

Jay says, “It is, and it makes me wonder about something: If these drugs are so bad for you, then why do people try them at all? For those who do, why do they continue to use them after they cause problems?”

Corty says, “Great question!”

Latisha says, “Maybe people don’t know about the problems drugs can cause and by the time they find out for themselves, they’re hooked.”

“They get addicted,” says Jay.

“Good work!! That’s exactly what we’re going to cover in our next mission,” says Corty.

This page was last updated September 2012

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Cite this article

NIDA. (2012, September 1). Brain Power: Grades 4-5. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/brain-power/brain-power-grades-4-5

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