Science, Math

SACAI Program Information SCIENCE OF ALCOHOL CURRICULUM FOR AMERICAN INDIAN STUDENTS (SACAI): TEACHER UNIT, American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), 184 pges, oversize paper-plastic spiral-bound, black and whit illustrations and diagrams. $24 plus videotape. Grades 7 - 10.

American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES)-developed Science Study program on alcohol abuse, Descriptive overview of content, on their web page, linked-to here. The curriculum unit -- which would probably take only a few weeks to teach, there are actually only 4 lesson units (though some will take more than one period) tackles alcoholism among Native youth in a variety of ways, including some simple hands-on experiments showing (by analogy, not actually) how alcohol behaves in the body and some of the physical damage it does. The units are Alcohol, the Body and the Community; Depriving Energy; Fetal Alcohol Syndrome; and the Brain.

Though titled Teacher Unit, thre are no student workbooks; student materials are to be photocopied from this, which makes the choice of a flimsy plastic spiral binding an even poorer choice (3-hole punched in a binder would have been best). . Worksheets, materials list, videotape (not included, but required). Pre- and post-tests that seem almost farcical in their question-begging simplicity. All evaluations using these tests should turn out fantastically successful for anyone who cares to bother. Not very scientific! Whether it would have any effects on kids' drinking there's no way to tell. It's said to be in use at more than 200 schools, presumably with large Indian student populations.

Check the AISES web page for an overview of the contents and approach.

A comment on the unit's present status: It is to be hoped this is still a preliminary version, because there remains a lot to do to make this a smooth, self-contained teaching unit. For one, the binding: it is that spiral plastic you can do yourself (if you have the machine) but which breaks up quickly. It is very impractical for repeated classroom use, particularly as teachers must photocopy many worksheets from it. These materials should be supplied in a 3-ring binder. Secondly, the procedures for the teacher can be figured out, but they are not clearly presented in an independent section. In the procedures section of the experiments lessons, there are remarks about gathering the children in groups, handing them eyedroppers and such -- and that's it! You have to read the kids' worksheets to figure out what they're actually supposed to do. From my own experience as author and editor of extensive K-12 science-math curricula, I know teachers don't like this, become confused, fumble around. Procedures for busy teachers have to be clearly written, and clearly separated for them from the student materials.

I emphasize that the unit is workable as is now, and since there is nothing comparable available anywhere, can be heartily recommended. But it is to be hoped that a professional editor -- experienced in organizing, not just spelling -- will be hired to prepare the final version for the press. It is to be wished also that in addition to the one externally-purchased video, this curriculum would require use and student discussions of Kifaru Productions' excellent, award-winning video "The Red Road to Sobriety", There is also som good Young Adult reading material which, though not Indian-centered is very well written and has been found to involve Indian teens well.

Although AISES mentions that "software is in preparation" it's doubtful they know the magnitude of that task. Very good software on physiology exists now; for instance, the CDROM The Mayo Clinic Family Health Reference not only shows the workings of the digestive system and liver, and has an entire unit and Q and A material on alcohol and its effects. They have 2 other anatomy and physiology CDROMs for younger kids, through their subsidiary, IVI, too. AISES cannot match these developmental efforts (and costs) by someone using MacroMind Director to make a computerized slide show.

AISES doesn't make any use of the idea that alcohol is a weapon pointed at Indian people, that cession treaties could never have been gained without the barrels of alcohol and the manufactured, pliable drunks, that you are a fool if you allow yourself to be a continued target in the Longest War -- enlistment of felt anger of youth that expresses itself in street and gang activity -- is not included. Perhaps the AISES type of teacher does not deal with youth on a level to know these things. The kids know more about it, it seems, than the people writing this material. Here's what a 10-year-old wrote for me (it was just supposed to be about "your day"):

FRANKLIN LIQUOR STORE: When you walk in here, all you see in there is some old drunk trying to buy or steal white port of MD 20-20 or something real cheap. They walk over to Loring Park and fall asleep on the bench. Some guy will try to roll them but they won't find nothing on them., Some winos go from Loring Park under the bridge and look around and see their bed with nice soft wood and cement trimming and they look around and say where the hell am I.

A teenage youth's poem:


Lost in time
on a sinking island
no where to go
only six feet under
all getting thirsty from
the hot sun
none seem to care
you can see the sadness
in their eyes
they have lost something
the only thing free for them
is their dreams and scenery
what's causing their island
to sink
why don't they build a raft
and sail away
to a new land.

The youth who wrote this poem seemed to be on such a raft sailing away from that scene he knew very well. But he fell in, drowned in it, years ago. Something stronger than science, rationality, good thoughts, emotions, is needed to strengthen our youth against these found-everywhere, always-tempting poisons of Jaamokomaan.

It's not that it "deprives body and community of energy". It's a poison that poisons the lives and spirits of all who come in contact with it, or love anyone who is in it. A "Poison Stronger than Love" it has been called in a book by that name, which isn't on AISES recommended readings list. They would do well to read it before preparing their final version. Every Indian kid who sees that book on my desk, in my hand, lying around th computer room, immediately knows what that poison is.

A list of inexpensive materials -- eyedroppers, graduated cylinders, red yarn, ziplock bags, sugar cubes (3 lbs!) and a videotape, "Babies in Waiting" (see AV section here) nust be purchased from sources other than AISES. Reviewed by Paula Giese

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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 23, 1996 - 7:16:06 AM