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Belfast 5th Graders Celebrate “Kick Butts” Day 

Today is “Kick Butts” day, where children all over the country are encouraged to take a stand against tobacco use. A group of 5th graders in Belfast spent the day away from the classroom to learn about the dangers of tobacco. “We learned how not to smoke and what happens if you smoke and what the results will be,” says 5th grader Jessica Clapp.The students celebrated the day with a variety of activities at the Waldo County YMCA designed to help them better understand the dangers of tobacco and what addiciton is all about. Linda Hartkopf is the School Health Coordinator for RSU #20 and says tobacco use is on the rise among young people in Maine. “The timing is perfect because recently there’s been some statistics on how Maine has started to increase in youth tobacco usage,” she says, “we’re up to 17%. At this point we’ve gone from 13 to 17% so the timing is right to kind of hit home with this message.”The kids participated in seven different interactive stations dealing with a variety of subjects. They had a relay race, where students were weighted down to show them what decreased lung capacity feels like. John Ellis, a young man who recently quit smoking, was on hand to share his experiences with the kids. “I’m hoping to pass on that children shouldn’t smoke and that it’s a better habit not to get into instead of having to quit in the long run,” says Ellis. The staff here hopes this type of interactive learning will be a more successfull approach to helping these kids make healthier lifestyle choices. “Anytime you can take an activity or a lesson and get some movement around it, it really helps to solidify,” says Hartkopf, “they’re not sitting so that movement, that interaction with dialogue all help that message to resonate within them.”Students, like 5th grader Katy King, say they enjoy this style a bit more than the traditional method of teaching. “You don’t have to be sitting at a desk and reading from a book,” she says, “you can be doing hands on things and experience.”