Prince William County Police Officer Sherrie Eichel walked into Jean Moseley's fifth grade classroom at Kerrydale Elementary School in Woodbridge one day this month armed with a different kind of weapon: a teddy bear. Make that a DARE bear.

Drug Abuse Resistance Education. Eichel hopes to save a life with her fuzzy friend.

"We are trying to teach kids how to cope with the pressures to come," she said of the drug awareness program, which county fifth graders are taking for the first time this year. The DARE bear is used to get the pupils' attention and help them relax. "Police have traditionally tried to fight the supply side of the problem. This program attempts to fight the demand. You have to teach kids not to want drugs."

According to Eichel, 90 school districts in Virginia, including those in Arlington and Manassas, are using the DARE program as part of their efforts to curb drug and alcohol abuse among young people. The program was developed in 1983 in Los Angeles.

By the end of the school year, Eichel and three other officers plan to have worked with all of the county's 2,838 fifth graders, who are being targeted because they will enter middle school in the fall. The students receive 16 sessions of 45 minutes each. If time allows, some students in lower grades will be included in the program this year.

The program, which is mandatory for fifth graders, focuses on four areas: teaching decision-making skills, building self-esteem,providing ways to resist peer pressure and offering alternatives to drug use.

"If we tell ourselves kids don't know anything about life, we are kidding ourselves," said Police Chief George T. Owens. "I think we need to accept the fact that some of these kids will be offered drugs. We have drugs, and any area that says it does not is kidding themselves."

Drug-related arrests in the county totaled 513 in 1985; the number dropped to 332 in 1986, the latest figures available, according to police.

Eichel, a former patrol officer, said she knows what drugs can do to youngsters. "When I worked the street, I would pick up a kid and find a {marijuana} joint," she said, "and when you tell the parents they would always say, 'That doesn't belong to my child. No. No. My child wouldn't get involved.' "

Eichel said she remembers an incident in which "one kid was so drunk that it was unreal. He was at a party. We had to carry him around and then finally had to call the rescue squad. He was in middle school."

Eichel said patrol work meant dealing with negatives, while the DARE program allows her to do something positive.

"These kids are old enough to understand what opportunities they have and what they can throw away," said fifth grade teacher Moseley. "They are old enough to judge."

At the first session, Moseley's students were given a 25-item true-or-false quiz titled "Decisions About Growing Up." Questions include:

When an older student tells you to give him money or he'll hurt you, you give him the money and do not tell an adult.

If you don't want to use drugs or alcohol, you have a right to say no.

Drug abuse means the wrong use of a drug or medicine.

Moseley's class of 10-year-olds appeared responsive to what they were learning.

Said Leonard Williams: "I think they {drugs} are anightmare. I think they do a lot of harm to people. It gets people messed up and they don't know who they really are."

Classmate Michelle Westerman said that once when she was 5, she heard some "kids talking about" drugs at school and it frightened her.

"Drugs are something that will destroy your mind," she said. "They are something people use to get high and act weird."

Brian Tirch said that "a lot of people have problems and they think it {drugs} will make them feel better."

"Most of the time people think that they are being cool or going along with the gang," added Charita Blackmon. "It just makes me angry. Like, why are they are doing it? Do they want to get killed?"

All students interviewed said that if they were offered drugs, they would walk away and, as Charita put it, "mind my own business."