Gordie Center

for Substance Abuse Prevention

Curriculum Infusion: Fine Arts

I. Introduction

The following information is posted with the permission of the Network for Dissemination of Curriculum Infusion (NDCI).

Network for Dissemination of Curriculum Infusion (NDCI) staff have observed a number of ways that Fine Arts faculty have integrated prevention into the curriculum. Theater students may perform plays centered on problems stemming from the abuse of alcohol and other substances. They may design and perform skits related to the campus alcohol and other drug prevention campaign. Dance and theater students may address the stress involved in the performing arts, the presence of drugs in the subculture and the need for healthy alternatives for stress reduction and relaxation.

In a prevention module designed for a dramatic arts course Ellen Margolis infuses a drama production curriculum with content on the problem of binge drinking. Drama majors and sorority and fraternity members.who have taken prerequisite drama courses study the physical, social, and psychological effects of binge drinking and design an educational theater production which is presented to the Greek community on campus, first as a "work in progress" to gather feedback and then as a final presentation. The performances encourage substantial dialogue with the audience which is informed of supportive resources on campus.



Developed by. Ellen Margolis, Ph. D.
Lecturer Dramatic Arts Department University of Califomia

Introduction | Prevention Rationale | Learning Objectives | Instructional Strategies | Methods of Evaluation | BACK TO TOP


This course, taught throughout the drama department, has been designed to address a different prevention topic each year and to work with a different sub-set of the university community. This year, the topic is binge drinking, and the identified group addressed is the campus Greek system (fraternities and sororities). The class this year is composed of both drama majors and members of the Greek organizations who have completed Dramatic Art 5, Introduction to Acting. Although DA 194T is squarely aimed at infusing a drama-producfion curriculum with information on and approaches to the problem of binge drinking, a by-product may be that representatives of two campus sub-cultures which ordinarily have little contact are leaming to respect each others' strengths while examining their own preconceptions of other groups of students.


The course first encourages prevention by thoroughly grounding the students in current knowledge and understanding of the issue. The main tools for conveying this information are a workbook developed in consultation with the Alcohol and Other Drug Education Coordinator from Student Health Services and a number of meetings with the Coordinator herself. Because students know they will be identified as leaders in the discourse on binge drinking within their communities, they take the task of assimilating the information very seriously. During the early weeks of the course, students' knowledge is developed through quizzes, discussions, and mock- presentations.

The course also encourages prevention in its participants through an ongoing discussion of the critical importance, to performers, of practices that promote emotional and physical balance and good health.

The outreach portion of the course encourages prevention on a much larger scale, as the piece of educational theater which the students develop is brought back out to the Greek community on two occasions: first, as a "work in progress," at which point the audience members are asked for feedback as to how the show can more effectively speak to people like themselves, and later as a finished production. At the final performances, when the final version of the show is presented, audience members are alerted to the information, resources, and support available on campus for those who are looking for support for abstinence. At each point of contact with the target audience, a great deal of discussion occurs.


The following units are included in the informational aspect of the course:

Definitions of binge drinking and moderation;
The effects of alcohol--physical and psychological;
Behaviors that lead to binge drinking and possible interventions;
Data about actual current practices among Greek organizations,
undergraduates on this campus, and college students in general;
Alternative behaviors.

Additionally, students study a number of models of educational theater, including Steve Bergman's Bill W. And Dr. Bob, a play about the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous- Professor Bodywise, a show produced by the Kaiser Medical Foundation; and others. Students examine how each model might work to communicate one or more of the informational units they have studied.


Over a ten-week quarter, the course proceeds as follows:

Weeks 1-2 have two areas of focus. First, students are thoroughly educated regarding binge drinking. The main instruments for this training are a reader assembled in consultation with the Alcohol and Other Drug Education Coordinator of Student Health Services and lmtze/discussions led by the Coordinator. Discussions, quizzes, and presentations encourage mastery of the material. Speakers from local prevention organizations visit class, not only to present up-to-date information, but also to give students contact with professionals in the field who can speak to the effectiveness of public health education. Secondly, students research the actual behaviors and attitudes of a broad spectrum of members of the Greek organizations in order to learn how best to reach that target audience through performance. At the beginning of the quarter, students complete questionnaires assessing their own current knowledge, attitude and behaviors with regards to alcohol and binge drinking.

During weeks 3-4, students study several models of educational theater, as discussed above. The models are examined as whole, multi-faceted projects involving audience, performance, and influence, rather than simply as scripts. Students select a model from those studied.

Weeks 5 through 8 are devoted to the development of a short piece of educational theater. The class begins to interact with one or more fraternity or sorority houses at this point by presenting the work in progress, both in order to get feedback on the developing show at an intermediate stage and to further involve the intended audience in the project.

During weeks 9 and 10, the show is to be performed a number of times for all members of the Greek organizations. Performers, along with peer health educators working in the area of Alcohol and Other Drugs, lead post-performance discussions and also point out the many resources available on campus for students desiring information or support in the areas of alcohol and other drug abuse prevention, intervention or recovery.


In class during Week 10, the project's effectiveness is evaluated on a number of levels. Students visit the Greek houses to ask for feedback and to re-emphasize the avaabihty of resources and support. Class members' retention and understanding of material on the issue, as well as the effect of the experience on their own attitudes and behaviors, is evaluated through a questionnaire 5ke the one taken earlier; and the class reviews its working methods in order to improve the course in the future.