Adapted from an article that originally appeared in The Peer Educator magazine
After months of lectures, labs, projects, presentations, cramming sessions and exams, a spring break vacation is well deserved. But your students don’t deserve just any spring break; they deserve a safe spring break. Spring break is a time for students to pause and get rejuvenated before finishing out the academic year.
It’s important to remember that most students do not partake in the stereotypical “beach party” style of spring break. Many use the time to do a service project, visit family and friends, catch up on homework or projects, or work some extra hours at a job.
For those students who are planning a trip, help them stay safe and avoid unnecessary drama by educating them on the following topics before they hit the sand or slopes.
When prepping your campus for a safe spring break you will more than likely address the following topics: Alternative spring break ideas, alcohol poisoning, impaired driving and sexual health, tobacco use, sun safety and travel tips.
Every year, thousands of students across the nation choose to devote their spring break vacations to helping others in need through service projects across the nation and internationally. Alternative spring breaks offer travel opportunities and cultural experiences, not to mention the positive impact on the communities being served by the volunteers. Many campuses are affiliated with organized alternative spring break programs, like Break Away. Break Away spends months helping students preparing for their experience by educating them about the social issues and the community in which they will be serving, while also teambuilding, fundraising, and planning logistics. See if your campus has an alternative spring break program or look into starting one to offer your students a life changing experience they will not soon forget.
* Remind your students to photograph their alternative spring break activities and post it to social media using #LeadTheBreak. Find more information on this great contest for your students at: leadthebreak.com
High-risk drinking seems to be engrained into too many spring break traditions. While most students choose to party safe, strategies like pacing drinks to one per hour and eating throughout the night should be emphasized to avoid alcohol poisoning. This time of the year is also an opportune time to train students how to recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning and what to do for someone experiencing it. Check out these resources available for purchase.
Many students on a tight budget may opt for a road trip rather than expensive plane ride to their spring break destinations. Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious issue, but look beyond just impaired driving. Be sure to expand your programming to include information on driving under the influence of other drugs, drowsy driving, distracted driving, and seatbelt use.
Activity Idea: Have peer educators wait by the car exits of campus with (tasty and healthy) snacks. As cars leave campus, the peer educators can reward those who are wearing seatbelts with a snack and give those not wearing it a kind reminder to buckle up. (Adapted from a Colorado Mountain College, Spring Valley Campus program)
Safer Sex and Sexual Assault Prevention
The philosophy of “What happens on spring break, stays on spring break” often comes into play when it comes to making choices about sexual activity on spring break. Students can avoid making poor choices that lead to lasting consequences like STIs, unplanned pregnancy, and emotional stress by being prepared, having a plan, and setting boundaries before going out. Additional tips for preventing sexual assault can be found here.
Spring break is a time to meet new people, explore new places, and try different things, but it is not time to pick up a potential lifelong addiction like smoking or using chew. Educate students about the harmful effects of tobacco use and its extremely addictive properties. This is a great time to educate about hookah, which is often viewed as an exotic but safe social activity. Many students do not realize they are smoking tobacco when they use a hookah or they believe the cooled smoke is safer to inhale. The truth is, smoking from a hookah can be even more dangerous than regular cigarette smoking due to the large volume of smoke inhaled, the long smoke “sessions” and the fact that a hookah can spread various communicable diseases through the mouthpieces that are often shared among several users.
Want to know one way to ruin your spring break? Get burned on the first day. No one wants to be miserable and look like a lobster all vacation long, so remind students to be proactive and use sunscreen and lip balm with an SPF of at least 30 before going out in the sun to protect themselves from the UV rays that can cause skin cancer (and wrinkles!). Some students are hitting the slopes for a spring ski vacation; it might be chilly, but do not let them be fooled, the sun is shining even stronger at high altitudes and sunscreen is a must. Sunglasses or goggles are key to preventing the sun from taking its toll on the eyes as well.
Activity Idea: These UV-sensitive beads could be incorporated into a “make your own keychain or bracelet” table. The beads change colors when UV rays are stronger, reminding students to put on their sunscreen!
Preparation is the secret to a safe and fun trip. Remind students to research their specific destination for safety information concerning hotels and hostels, renting a car or taking taxis, and food and water issues. Check out these safety and other useful travel tips.
Traveling by plane also requires some serious preparation. Remind travelers of the long list of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requirements and other general rules for flying, like arriving early to the airport and necessary travel documents.
Spring break is not just a party or vacation for students; it is a chance for you to educate your students on serious and life-saving topics in a fun, light-hearted way. This year, get creative and encourage your students to live it up (responsibly) at Spring Break – they deserve it!