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El Monte twist on Red Ribbon week includes red tulips

By Theresa Harrington
Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 at 6:53 pm in Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

El Monte Elementary students and volunteers plant red tulips during Red Ribbon Week.

El Monte Elementary students and volunteers plant red tulips during Red Ribbon Week.

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?

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2 Responses to “El Monte twist on Red Ribbon week includes red tulips”

  1. Kim Lohse Says:

    I’d like to mention a couple of other things; our PTA Secretary, Allison Phifer, came up with this awesome idea! And I include myself among those who weren’t certain about Red Ribbon Week’s origins. The other officers who helped out were Ron Steiner and Steve Lynn, and we could not have accomplished this huge project without their help!
    Thanks a bunch for giving our project a mention!
    Kim Lohse

  2. Anon Says:

    As a parent of a new student at El Monte, I was so impressed with the innovative outlook on Red Ribbon week. Planting the red tulips not only allows the kids to learn about science in a hands on manner, but as the article states, it also will reinforce the kids’ pledge to stay away from drugs.

    I hope this sort of idea makes it’s way around to other schools/school districts.

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