Two sets of lungs hung on a breathing simulator in David Nutter’s health class at Indian Trail Middle School. With the turn of a valve, the healthy set of lungs expanded and contracted as Nutter pumped air through the simulator. The other set of lungs, darkened from tar and other chemicals found in cigarettes, had trouble expanding when the air was pumped.
That display of the difference between a healthy set of lungs and one that came from someone with lung cancer was all students needed to say they would never smoke.
“I think it’s interesting because a lot of stuff that we learned, we didn’t know how much harm it did to you, but now we do, so we won’t ever do it,” sixth-grader Marlo Bandon said after Thursday afternoon’s class.
Another sixth-grader, Victoria Kuchera, was also intrigued by the demonstration.
“I also think it’s interesting, because it opens my eyes to what goes on inside the body, cause sometimes I’m like, ‘Oh, this happens,’ and you don’t really even know that it happens,” she said.
The unit Nutter’s class was studying was on substance abuse. It covered everything from the effects of tobacco and alcohol to steroids and marijuana. It’s a unit Nutter teaches every year and one that he always tries to teach using techniques that his students have never seen.
Based on the gasps that came from the class of middle schoolers, it’s safe to say the lung display caught the students’ attention.
Throughout the course of the year, nearly all the students at Indian Trail will have gone through Nutter’s substance abuse class. In using ways that really engage his students, Nutter believes showing the side effects of drugs and other substances will help students make good decisions once they reach the peer pressure of high school.
“The rumors that they’re hearing from their older brother or sister at Science Hill or just out in the community, the rumors become a reality as soon as they walk out these doors if they see this. To be able to role-play or talk about it openly in here and how they’re going to handle a situation is huge, especially middle-school age,” Nutter said.
At the end of the tobacco lesson, Nutter took his students outside and gave them straws to breathe through as they walked from one side of the field to the other in order to demonstrate what dealing with emphysema is like.
After going through weeks of lessons and other demonstrations, seventh-grader Sarah Wilhoit said the emphysema activity will definitely make her think twice if she’s ever offered a cigarette.
“It taught me not to do drugs and not to smoke and stuff because it was really hard to breathe. I like walked down there and I was breathing and on the way I had to stop because it was just so hard to breathe,” she said.