Getting Started

Some excellent materials already exist out there. Take a look at the sources of information and organizations for inspiration – refer to the section called Support in Your Community. Become familiar with what these organizations offer and incorporate the existing materials into your campaign. These are great starting points and are useful as themes to include in any of the activities you choose to do.

Work with adult allies

Having the support of adults such as teachers, the principal, guidance counsellors, public health nurses, parents and caregivers/family, and community leaders can make planning go a lot more smoothly.

Find out what’s already at your school

If your school has a health action team or student council, get them on board! There’s no need to start from scratch, and you can get started very quickly when there’s already a motivated group of people ready to help.

Consult with experts

When planning activities, it’s important to make sure that best and/or promising practices around public education and cannabis education are covered. Refer to the section called “Support in Your Community” for more information on whom to contact in your community.

You don’t have to be the expert

Your local Public Health Units and other community members have expertise and resources to help you make your activity engaging and meaningful.

It’s okay to say “I don’t know”

While leading these activities, you might get questions from your peers about cannabis. Remember, it’s always okay to say “I don’t know” and to refer them to an adult ally or expert in the community for more information.

Customize activities for your school

The ideas in this guide are suggestions and idea starters. Your team can discuss whether a proposed idea works for your school and community and change it as needed.

Get creative

If you have a completely new idea for an activity and want to try it out, we’ve included a blank template at the end of the guide for your planning. We would love to hear from you! Please be sure to share your creative idea with us after the event and let us know how it went! You can connect with us by email (, via Twitter (@OpheaCanada), and on Facebook (OpheaCanada). Be sure to connect with your principal, your teacher, your leader, or a public health professional to review it with them prior to running it with students.

Work with or build on existing events

Find out what’s already going on at your school (teachers can help with this) and build from there!

Key times and dates during the school year – such as September and back-to-school, before the holidays, end-of-year school trips, or before Prom – provide great opportunities for communicating your message. Consider making connections with events such as World Mental Health Day, Bell Let’s Talk Day, Weedless Wednesday, or World Health Day. This way, you’re building momentum and spreading the word even further.

Be aware of triggers

Substance Use, Addictions, and Related Behaviours is an umbrella term that references a variety of topics including: the warning signs of substance misuse; the personal and social impacts of using substances; the links between substance use and misuse and mental health problems and disorders; legal consequences; behaviours and actions that can lead to injury or death; and how to respond to challenging situations.

We are excited that you’re willing to be a leader in your school and connect with your peers on this topic, but be aware that you may encounter people who have experienced past trauma related to substances or mental health, or you may already know someone who has. Consider informing students within your school of the activity content ahead of time and providing them with the opportunity to opt out of a certain activity if needed. It’s also important to have supports in place so that students know where they can get help or receive more information during or after conversations about substance use. Your school counsellor, public health nurse, or an adult ally can help you identify sources of assistance to have available at events and activities, such as school and local counselling supports – refer to the section called “Sources of Support in Your Community, in Ontario, and across Canada” for more information on who to contact in your community.

Include a call to action

Activities are more powerful if they include a call to action or a link to a resource where participants and your intended audience can find more information if they’re interested. Have materials on hand during in-person events, or include links on your posters or other materials so that people know where to go if they want to learn more – or if they want to join your team!

Remove barriers

Make it easy for people to participate. Don’t require expensive equipment (for example, cell phones, personal electronic devices) or travel to participate in the activities you plan.

While you’re planning your activities, ask yourself if there are others that might have difficulty participating and how can you make it easier for them to be involved or feel welcomed.

Go outside

Think about hosting activities in different parts of the school – in the gym, in the hallway, or outside. Be safe, but also get creative about where you host the activities to maintain people’s interest.

Vet the message

Do some research ahead of time to make sure the information or messages you’re sharing in the school are correct. Work with an adult to research and decide what message is the best fit for your activity.

Spread the word

Use social media to let others know about the awesome work you are doing. Invite other communities and schools to join you in sharing your message.