Spring 2011 • Issue 22


The Cool Spot Carnival: Teaching Teens About Alcohol

NIAAA’s “Cool Spot Carnival” continues to bring in record crowds at local events, showing children of all ages how alcohol alters the brain.

The Carnival is based on material from the NIAAA Web site for kids, www.thecoolspot.gov. Much of the success of the Carnival exhibit lies in its simplicity. There’s nothing to plug in and no high-tech devices to switch on or power up. Instead, the Carnival features two flip-chart boards: “Reality Check,” which dispels the myth that everybody is drinking, and “Pick Your No’s,” which gives practical, evidence-based advice on how to say “no” to alcohol.

At the heart of the exhibit is the football-toss game. Children line up to try their hand at throwing a football at a target while wearing “Fatal Vision” goggles. The goggles distort hand–eye coordination, creating a sense of diminished control and balance similar to alcohol intoxication. Exhibit staff use the opportunity to drive home the idea that alcohol changes your brain, much like the goggles change your ability to hit the target with the ball.

Photo of Cool Spot Carnival at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (A A A S) Family Science Days

Most recently, the Carnival exhibited at the NBC4 Health and Fitness Expo and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Family Science Days. An estimated 85,000 people attended the 2-day NBC4 Health and Fitness Expo. This well-attended, well-publicized event, organized by a local Washington, DC, NBC affiliate, featured a wide range of health and fitness activities by both governmental and private organizations. The AAAS Family Science Days, which targeted families and children, included hands-on exhibitions focusing on a variety of science-related topics, from physics and medicine to information technology. More than 2,000 participants attended the event. The Carnival also was a featured exhibit at the National Institutes of Health Brain Awareness Week event at the National Museum of Health and Medicine/Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Brain Awareness Week 2010 is an international effort organized by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives to advance public awareness about the progress and benefits of brain research. Other Institutes at the event included the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Drug Abuse, and the National Institute on Aging.