By Theresa Harrington
Red Ribbon Week is in full swing in the Mt. Diablo school district, with students pledging to make healthy choices and reject drugs or alcohol.
At El Monte Elementary in Concord, PTA President Kim Lohse organized a different way to mark the week — by planting red tulips that will bloom in the spring, reminding children of their pledges.
Here’s how Lohse described the school’s planned activities in an e-mail on Monday, before the planting (excerpted):
“We are hosting an event called ‘Plant a Pledge’ in an effort to bring an educational and positive format back to the Red Ribbon Week celebrations – often this week goes the way of ribbons, stickers, erasers – things that are a distraction to classrooms instead of something educational. Many of our students weren’t totally sure about the origin of Red Ribbon Week, so we circulated an informational flier and decided to totally change up the week.
Each child at our school will be planting a red tulip while pledging to stay free of illegal drugs and unhealthy choices. The idea is that as the tulips bloom in spring, the children are once again reminded of the pledge!
I have invited numerous law enforcement personnel to help with our planting.
During the week, our students are also having a Red Ribbon Spirit Week – Monday, wear your shirt backwards to turn your back on illegal drugs/unhealthy choices; Tuesday wear boots to stomp out illegal drugs/unhealthy choices; Wednesday wear a hat to put a cap on illegal drugs and unhealthy choices; Thursday wear sunglasses because illegal drugs/unhealthy choices are shady; and Friday lower grades are wearing costumes to say ‘Boo’ to illegal drugs and unhealthy choices, upper grades have a free dress day (we wear uniforms daily) to stay free of illegal drugs/unhealthy choices.
Lastly, we are having each classroom create a chain of red ‘ribbons’ they have each signed while making the same pledge. Then we have representatives from each class walking with us to a neighboring classroom to link their chains together – the message being that we are all in this together, and together we can chain up illegal drugs and unhealthy choices.
It’s a whole new way of celebrating Red Ribbon Week! It’s my hope that the activities combined with the educational material we sent to classrooms, when we ask our students and teachers next year what this week is about, they will have positive, definitive answers… not to mention a day of a hands-on, one-on-one interaction with our community role models from law enforcement!”
I just spoke to Lohse on the phone and she said the students spent yesterday and today planting the tulips in five different areas of the campus. Three police officers from various jurisdictions pitched in to help, including her father, Cal Nutting, pictured above. Several parent volunteers also helped out, she said.
“It was awesome,” Lohse said. “It was so rewarding. Kids have been walking around saying, ‘This was so much fun!’ I’m so impatient. Now, I want to see all the flowers bloom.”
How is your school marking Red Ribbon Week?