When seventh grade social studies students learned they were going to be involved in a service-learning project (using the Project Citizen model to develop and propose public policy) several students decided they wanted to focus on the issue of underage drinking. Students identified this issue for a variety reasons including personal experiences with alcoholism and peer pressure.
During their preliminary research, the students discovered that many alcohol advertisements specifically target young people and they wanted to learn more. They began by surveying their peers to learn about the beliefs, accessibility of and use of alcohol among their peers. The survey responses convinced the students that alcohol abuse was a problem among their peers. Students continued their investigation of the issue by visiting local establishments (convenience stores, supermarkets, etc.) and recording the location of alcohol related products and advertisements.
Students also researched local alcohol advertising, such as sponsorship of athletic competitions, signs on buses, and logos and designs on clothing apparel. Based on their research, students brainstormed and selected their proposed policy – raising the alcohol tax and using the proceeds to create public service announcements about the dangers associated with underage drinking.
Partnering with the Portland Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol and local law enforcement, the students participated in two public forums in the City of Portland where they discussed the issue of underage drinking and their proposed policy. In addition, the students drafted letters to alcohol companies and their Maine State Legislators voicing their concerns about the deliberate targeting of young people in alcohol advertisements.