Red Deer Public School District

Middle school students learn the dangers of tobacco use

Students at middle schools across Central Alberta have learned the dangers of tobacco use through engaging live theatre as Butt Ugly makes its way through the region.

Butt Ugly, an award-winning program that uses a drama production format to educate students in Grades 6 and 7 about the dangers of tobacco use, made a stop at Gateway Christian, Westpark Middle and Central Middle Schools this week.

“Our goal is to take youthful people and present it to younger people - that really great role model. We talk about cigarettes, we talk about chew and we talk about electronic cigarettes, the vaping pens we see now,” said Kate Harris, tour manager. “It’s really more about how to say no then information about tobacco - everyone knows what’s wrong with it. It’s about how to say no.”

This year marks Butt Ugly’s 24th and final year and the message is resonating as statistics show a dramatic decrease in tobacco use amongst seven to 12 year olds.

Harris said it’s been great to see how the production has evolved.

“Kids now want to talk about deeper issues, they want to know more - knowledge is power. And now they have access to the Internet, so they know a lot more. When I was in school, I didn’t have that at my fingertips,” she said. “They want to be entertained, but they want to dig a little bit deeper.”

In addition to the production, a key component of the program are the breakout sessions following the performance.

“The play has always been the main focus - the excitement of live theatre is a proven tactic for teachers. But the breakout sessions have evolved a lot over the years. It’s a lot less information at the kids and a lot more activities. We talk about refusal skills, how to refuse tobacco - refuse, educate, avoid and leave - and I think that goes for a lot of things. It’s not just a tobacco rejection skill. They also talk about the truths and lies that we hear from the tobacco companies, which is still very much targeted to young people,” said Harris.“The students love it. The teachers love it - they love live theatre. It’s a great way to teach kids.”

Harris said she is incredibly proud of the legacy Butt Ugly will leave.

“Butt Ugly has been running for 24 years, we’ve had an incredible successful tour. We’ve been incredibly supported by our community here in town, Health Canada and the United Way most recently. It’s just time - there’s lot of things happening in our community and country. There’s lots of new topics to talk about.”

The troupe continues its Central Alberta tour next week.