Brodhead 8th Graders Learn Consequences of Substance Misuse
Reality Maze is an annual event for Brodhead Middle School 8th Graders. It is an opportunity to educate students about some possible negative consequences of substance misuse, and inform students of the supports that are available in our community.
This year’s event took place on Friday, April 29th from 8:00am – 11:00am in the Brodhead Middle School gym. All 77 8th graders participated in the Reality Maze. There were 20 professionals who played the needed roles in the scenarios and two teachers who supervised the students.
Updating the Reality Maze
In preparation for the event, we reviewed the previous Reality Mazes scenarios and determined that in order to have a stronger impact, we needed to make major changes.
In collaboration with partner agencies and Y2Y students, we used student-friendly language to reduce the number of scenarios from 32 to 10 while making the scenarios more accurate representations of what happens in our local community. Fewer scenarios allowed us to schedule students’ participation in the maze so it was an orderly and educational experience.
The judges met prior to the Reality Maze to agree on appropriate consequences for each scenario.
To make the process run smoothly, a folder was made for each volunteer that included a welcome and thank you letter, master spreadsheet, and a copy of each scenario that pertained to that person or group.
Prior to the event, each group of professionals in the Reality Maze was invited to read through their scenarios for accuracy. Feedback provided from these groups was used to update the scenarios.
Reality Maze Day
On the day of the event, each 8th Grade Math class was given whole group instruction. The first five students started the maze after receiving their scenario worksheet and a pencil. Every five minutes, another set of five students went to the gym to start the maze. Two classrooms near the gym were uses as the courtrooms. Students waiting in the math classroom used the drunk goggles and other interactive tools.
After the event, each volunteer was sent a Google Form evaluation to describe their experience. According to volunteer feedback, 100% said this year’s event was better than their last Reality Maze experience. All respondents indicated that the Reality Maze was a useful activity for students; they were very satisfied with the implementation of the event; and were satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of the scenarios. All volunteers who responded indicated they would volunteer again and also recommend volunteering at this event to a friend or colleague. The volunteers did not feel rushed when playing their part in the scenarios.
What Students Learned
The students were asked to take a pre-test prior to beginning the Reality Maze, as well as a post-test and reflection upon completion. This provided data to measure learning obtained during the maze; specifically students’ understanding of what consequences there are for various illegal activities. Sixty students took the pre-test, but only 49 completed the post-test and reflection. The post-test also allowed for multiple answers.
*This graph represents the 49 students who completed the post-test and reflection.
Pre-Test & Post-Test Results
The post-test revealed that more students understood citations were issued for these illegal behaviors.
The post-test revealed that more students understood fines were issued for these illegal behaviors.
The post-test revealed that more students understood they would receive a police record for these illegal behaviors.
Despite the fact that the planning involving the court scenarios did not include jail, the post-test results did not indicate that students learned this information.
The post-test revealed that more students understood there is a consequence for vaping nicotine.
A significant challenge to preparing for the 2022 Reality Maze was time management. The revisions of the scenarios took time because it was a collaborative effort with the professionals involved in the scenarios. Better Brodhead also had other programs and events the same week which limited coalition volunteer involvement. In the future, we will not plan multiple programs and events in the same week.
The biggest challenge during the Reality Maze event itself was the law enforcement station. There were two officers, but twice one officer was called away so that left only one officer. We also quickly realized that a majority of the scenarios began with the police, which caused a back-up from the beginning.
To improve for next year, the planning committee will create more scenarios that do not begin with law enforcement and review our current scenarios to determine if some changes can be made to the order of the stations.
Dr. Semrow was very accommodating and allowed students to finish up the maze and reflection even though some were tardy to their next class. According to the student feedback, they would like for there to be more law enforcement and more judges to decrease wait time at those stations.
Other challenges included volunteers canceling without much notice or not showing up, and not enough scenarios that included the EMS. The students would like to be able to do more than one scenario or make the scenarios longer to be able to visit more stations.
To address these challenges, we will invite more professionals to participate in the Reality Maze. We will make sure to get commitments earlier, and possibly have MOUs for the volunteers. We will invite members of the EMS to help us develop more scenarios that involve them.
A final challenge was getting the volunteers to complete the evaluation that was sent via email. Next year we will add a paper copy of the evaluation to each folder and have a drop off spot near the exit.
There were many successes, including strengthening collaborative partnerships between Better Brodhead and local groups and professionals. The level of engagement and ownership of the event increased through many productive work meetings with the school, the police department, the municipal judge, and parents.
There was an impressive amount of community involvement in the Reality Maze. Almost all of the Reality Maze volunteers either work or live in Brodhead so they were invested in this event.
It is important for the authenticity of scenarios that students interact with the actual professionals in our community. These interactions can provide an opportunity to build relationships in case students need to contact them for help in the future.
According to student feedback, they felt the scenarios were realistic and liked learning about the consequences by talking to the people at the different stations without getting in trouble.
For sustainability of the Reality Maze, we will create a Google Drive Folder that has all the information needed to run the event. It will include a timeline, a list of volunteers needed, a list of materials needed, templates of the signage, and pdfs of the scenarios. There are already volunteers who would like to take our packaged Reality Maze to other communities in Green County.
Better Brodhead was invited to have a display during the November Parent Teacher conferences at Brodhead Middle School. Around 35 parents and students stopped by our display. The vape cart displays the dangers of the chemicals in a vape. The meth display is meant to educate the community on the dangers of the “one-pot method” of manufacturing meth amphetamines. Thank you Brodhead Middle School for your continued support and partnership!