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Addiction experiment coming to Tamaqua

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    Allison Amodea

Published April 13. 2019 05:58AM

Humans are not the only species on the planet that are subject to addiction.

Temple University professor Dr. Scott Rawls has found that flatworms (planarians) respond to addictive substances in a manner similar to that of mammals. Rawls has spent considerable time researching the similarities and has created a program designed to teach children about the adverse effects of drug addiction.

First created for students in grades 6 to 12, the professor has expanded the program to the elementary level. He is bringing his program, the Science Education Against Drug Abuse Partnership, to the Tamaqua Area School District on April 24, thanks to current Temple student and Tamaqua high school graduate Allison Amodea.

Amodea is a junior at Temple, studying cellular and molecular neuroscience at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine.

“My lab at the Center for Substance Abuse Research is on the same floor as Professor Rawls’ lab. When I came across his substance abuse education and prevention program, I thought it would be beneficial to share his passion with Tamaqua. I also hoped it would inspire student interest in the STEM field and Temple University,” Amodea said.

Her passion led her to connect Professor Rawls with Tamaqua teacher Roseann Weinrich and the Tamaqua experiment was born.

The experiments will take place in the science rooms at all three educational levels at Tamaqua — high school, middle school and elementary. The flatworms, which are aquatic by nature, will be placed in petri dishes filled with spring water. Addictive substances, such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and sugar, will be added, and students will be able to see how each affects the worms and make the connection to how addictive drugs affect people.

Rawls said, “I’ve always been interested in developing some kind of science addiction curriculum for the K-12 level, because there really wasn’t any kind of curriculum like that that exists.

“It’s important to educate young people about science that surrounds drug addiction.”

Dr. Stephen Toth, assistant superintendent for the Tamaqua Area School District, said, “Considering the dangers of addiction, both TASD and Professor Rawls are using this experiment to teach students the science behind addiction. This is an interesting way to provide students with anti-drug use messages while they learn this science using as STEM pathway.”

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