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Brain Power: Grades 4-5

Beth and Juan are hanging out in their club house, rolling a soccer ball between them as they talk. Beth asks, “So, how do you think the Spectacular Scientists Clubkids did on their mission?”

Juan replies, “I don’t know. They’re nice kids, but they’re not Junior Scientists like we are.”

Corty pops up on the soccer ball in Beth’s hands and says, “Why are you guys being so competitive? Scientists work together to solve problems. It’s called teamwork!”

“But we want to win, triumph, beat the other team. Be the best!” says Juan.

Corty replies, “Winning is about finding the right answers, and you can probably do that faster together. We’ll talk about that later. For now, we’re going to learn about drugs.

Juan, can you tell us about the different kinds of drugs?”

Juan can’t think of anything. “Um, I don’t think we covered that.”

“Well, drugs are categorized into classes, and one of the classes is stimulants,” says Corty.

“Oh, wait a second! We learned about stimulants, like cocaine and caffeine, like in coffee,” says Beth. “Nicotine in cigarettes is a stimulant, too, and so are amphetamines.”

Corty says, “Can you come up with one other?” The kids think for a moment but shake their heads. “Ritalin is a prescription drug that’s also a stimulant. Do you know what stimulants do?” asks Corty.

Beth answers quickly, “They make you more awake and active. They also make your heart beat faster, your blood pressure go up, and you get hyper and sometimes even angry and irritable.”

“Whoa! That can’t be good for you,” Juan comments.

“It isn’t! Your mission is to make a chart that lists each stimulant,” says Corty.

“That sounds like a great way to learn about stimulants. We can write down all the different stimulants, record the different names they have, how they’re used, and the effects on the body, the brain, and neurotransmission,” Juan suggests.

“But first, to help out, I’m going to show you a PET scan,” says Corty.

“Oh, that’s like when we took my dog to the vet to have x-rays. He ate one of my dad’s slippers,” Juan says, as Beth giggles.

Corty says, “No. PET stands for Positron Emission Tomography.” Corty leads them over to the computer and “wakes it up,” using the mouse. Two PET scans appear, one showing the normal brain and the other the brain on stimulants. “All you need to know is that these PET scans show a normal brain and a brain affected by stimulants.” The kids see how the PET scan affected by stimulants shows less activity than the PET scan of a normal brain.

The kids move away from the computer, and Juan says, “Let’s get started on those charts.” The kids gather their materials together and start working on the charts. Corty leaves while they are working.

Stop here until students have completed #5 in the procedure.

As the kids are finishing up, Corty jogs in holding a steaming cup of coffee. He sips the coffee. He gradually gets more hyper and jogs in place. Corty begins talking very fast, “That’s a very nice chart. Very impressive! Are you almost done? You do know a lot about stimulants. Tell me everything you know about stimulants.” Corty starts doing jumping jacks.

Juan and Beth look at each other, at Corty, then at the cup of coffee he’s now set aside.

Juan goes over, moves the coffee cup away, and says, “I think you’ve had enough coffee, Corty. It’s starting to go to your head.”

Corty continues to talk very fast. “Caffeine is legal; anyone can get it. It’s in coffee, tea, and soft drinks. But it’s not a good idea for kids to have caffeine, even in sodas, because it makes you hyper, and it can cause headaches and sleep problems.”

Beth walks over to Corty and says, “Corty, I think you’ve done enough research for the moment. You need to take your own advice and lay off the stuff.”

Corty is suddenly exhausted from all of his activity. He sprawls out on the table and says, “Maybe you’re right.”

“And that brings me to a question we had: If drugs are so bad for you, then why do people keep on taking them?” asks Beth.

Corty responds, “That’s a really good question. As Junior Scientists, did you come to any conclusions on that?”

Juan replies, “Well, some drugs are addictive, like nicotine and cocaine. So, once people start taking them, it can be very hard to stop. Even caffeine can be addictive.”

Corty says, “That’s what I need – a little more coffee. That’ll wake me up!” He reaches for his coffee cup, but Juan moves it away again and says, “I don’t think so.”

Corty gets up and shakes himself off and says, “Well, maybe you’re right. And anyway, I’m on to my next mission; gotta visit the Spectacular Science Clubkids. Later!”

This page was last updated September 2012

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

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