October brings a lot of craziness to the classroom. Things can get a little overwhelming between parent-teacher conferences and the sugar rush of Halloween. It can be easy to overlook Red Ribbon Week as another thing to put on the to-do list. Finding Red Ribbon Week ideas seems like an added stress this time of year, but there are several easy ways to include drug awareness activities into your lesson plans without spending a ton of time planning.
Today I want to share a few of my favorite ways to incorporate Red Ribbon Week activities into the classroom. I hope you’ll find these helpful as you begin to make your lesson plans for the end of the month.
What you'll find on this page:
What you need to know:
What is Red Ribbon Week? How did it get started?
Red Ribbon Week is a drug prevention campaign that began in the 1980s. This makes it the oldest and largest drug awareness campaign, but how did it start?
It all began in 1985 after a Drug Enforcement Administration agent named Enrique Camarena died. After he was killed by drug traffickers in Mexico, people wanted to honor his dedication to stopping illegal drugs in America.
Small celebrations began near his hometown in California in 1985, but by 1988 the first National Red Ribbon Week had begun.
The red ribbon was carried over from these first celebrations to show one’s opposition to drugs visually.
Today many schools use Red Ribbon Week as a chance to discuss drugs and alcohol with students. in the early grade, many teachers focus on safety with prescription medication. Older students spend more time learning about how to stand up against peer pressure and the effects of drug and alcohol abuse.
When is Red Ribbon Week celebrated?
Red Ribbon Week is celebrated the week of October 23-31 annually. Since it includes Halloween, many schools incorporate dress-up days or other fun events into their celebrations.
10 Ideas for Red Ribbon Week Activities
1. Hold a campus or grade-level door decorating contest.
If you're a planner, you might be looking for Red Ribbon Week ideas for the entire month. In that case, many campuses hold a door decorating contest in honor of Red Ribbon Week. Classes can get creative and share the message of saying no to drugs in a fun way.
You can even enter your door into the National Red Ribbon Photo Contest for a chance to win some pretty amazing prizes.
Looking for door ideas? Here are some examples of amazing door designs by classrooms around the country.
2. Celebrate by having campus or classroom dress-up days.
Whether your campus plans this or you create your own, dress-up days can be a fun way to get students excited about Red Ribbon Week. Be creative, but make sure your ideas won’t distract students from learning.
Here are a few fun ideas for Red Ribbon Week dress-up days:
- “Sock it to drugs!” – Wear crazy socks
- “Team up against drugs” – Wear sports jerseys
- “Lei off drugs” – Wear Hawaiian clothes
- “Don’t get mixed up in drugs” – Wear mismatched clothes
- “Too bright for drugs” – Wear neon clothes
- “I mustache you not to do drugs” – Wear mustaches
- “I dream of a drug-free world.” – Wear pajamas
- “Don’t get tied up in drugs.” – Wear a tie
- “Put a cap on drugs.” – Wear a hat.
3. Hold mini-celebrations to coordinate with your theme days.
You can easily and inexpensively get some fun props to go with your dress-up day themes. It can be fun to take 10-15 minutes to do something a little extra special. Whether you do it at the end of the day or with your Red Ribbon Week lesson plans, your students will have a blast celebrating being drug-free.
Here are some fun ideas to get you started:
Crazy Sock Day – Let kids take off their shoes for math class.
Sports Jersey Day – Play a game of tag outside with your students
Hawaiian Day – Give your students a lei when they enter class. You can get these at any party store or grab an inexpensive set on Amazon.
Neon Day – Have a glow-in-the-dark dance party by giving students glow bracelets and turning on music for 5-10 minutes at the end of the day.
4. Invite a police officer to speak to your class about the dangers of drugs.
Many local police departments have a D.A.R.E. officer who would be happy to come speak with your class or campus about saying no to drugs. These individuals can get booked out early, so reach out to ensure you get your guest speaker on the calendar.
5. Build in those writing and speaking standards by having your students make a PSA about preventing drug abuse.
Students LOVE to video themselves. After they’ve learned about some of the dangers of drugs, put your students into groups to create a public service announcement about saying no.
You can build in academics by having students write scripts, research and share facts, and practice their public speaking skills by recording their announcements to share on your campus announcements or with the local news or radio station.
There’s even a national contest that your students can enter their PSA into. If your students create videos between 30-60 seconds, they can enter them into the Red Ribbon Week Campus Video PSA Contest.
6. Use read-alouds to engage students in discussions about drug safety.
Sometimes kids need to take medicine, so we must help them understand the difference between safely taking medication and misusing drugs. You could use many great picture books for read-aloud to help you with this. Here are two great options:
7. Talk about what students want to be when they grow up.
Red Ribbon Week is also a good time to build in some career conversations. Help students make connections between being drug-free and a bright future by having them learn about and share what they want to be when they grow up.
You can have students complete this no-prep Red Ribbon Week writing craft to share their drug-free future with others. It makes a great bulletin board!
8. Hold a Red Ribbon Week Poster Contest or find one in your community.
True story: I still remember back to third grade when I had my Red Ribbon Week poster printed in the local paper. I can't remember what the prize was exactly, but I was so excited to see the poster in print.
Many communities hold a poster contest where students can submit their posters for a chance to win prizes, just like mine did. Students love contests, which is a great way to get positive attention from the local community.
Here's an example of a winning poster I found on Pinterest.
If you're unsure where to start looking, consider calling your local paper or D.A.R.E officer to see if they have any information. Many times these individuals can lead you in the right direction.
If your community doesn’t have one of these, create your own! Be sure to give your students clear parameters and use a rubric to judge. You can even ask your campus art teacher if he or she wants to get involved.
9. Have your students sign the Red Ribbon Week Pledge
This is an easy one; you can do it after a read-aloud (like the ones above) or any of your lessons during Red Ribbon Week.
Make sure you discuss how to complete it and have students leave off their personal info like address and phone number.
10. Include some short educational videos in your lesson plans.
There are a number of great Red Ribbon Week videos for elementary students online. Depending on your campus or grade-level focus, you can find everything from being safe with medication to saying no to smoking and more!
Here’s a great set of short videos (including some awesome songs) I found: