Candor Health Education offers online game that helps teens and tweens make healthy choices – Chicago Tribune
Candor Health Education, based in Hinsdale, formerly the Robert Crown Center, provides a friendly way to help teens and tweens learn to make healthy drug and alcohol choices.
Pixelton Adventures launched on March 14 and allows users to choose their own avatar and move through a series of daily decisions, challenges, and pressures, such as navigating friendships, final week balancing, and the management of extracurricular activities.
Pixelton Adventures features seven different episodes, meaning players won’t continue to have the same experience for multiple playthroughs.
Play the game, available at www.candorhealthed.org/drug-education-portal is free for students and parents, as well as teachers for school use.
“It empowers students to make decisions and see the consequences,” said Katie Gallagher, director of education for Candor Health Education. “They create an avatar and go through things that they can actually come across.”
Gallagher said Pixelton Adventures, a Minecraft-style platformer, is part of a drug education portal that Candor Health Education launched in August 2020. The need for this kind of education is clear, said Gallagher, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse, 70% of people who try an illegal drug before age 13 will develop a substance abuse disorder. Education and prevention are key to reversing the trend.
“It’s never too early to start conversations with kids about drugs, alcohol and the harm they can inflict,” Gallagher said. “We hope Pixelton will provide students with a fun way to reflect on how they will handle situations and challenges that could lead to drug and alcohol use.”
She said a young person’s brain changes rapidly during adolescence. During this time, the connections between neurons strengthen and those that are not used disappear. Chemical changes in the brain caused by drugs interfere with this process and can increase the likelihood of developing an addiction.
Matthew Metcalfe, a 15-year-old student at Lyons Township High School in La Grange, said Pixelton Adventures sounded interesting when he first heard about it.
“It kind of ties into what we do in the health class,” he said. “It’s a good tool because it presents information in a different way than in the classroom.”
Metcalfe said he thought Pixelton Adventures would be of interest to many young people.
“Video games are a very popular form of media,” he said. “It’s a good way to learn about drug education.
Metcalfe’s mother, Sandi Metcalfe, said she was impressed with Pixelton Adventures.
“We talk about drug education all the time in our house,” she said. “(Matthew) loves video games, so it definitely seemed like a good idea to give it a try.”
Sandi Metcalfe said she believes Pixelton Adventures provides good lessons for young people.
“They can kind of learn what drugs do to the brain and to the body,” she said. “It can also help with managing peer pressure and making good decisions.”
Gallagher said it will be unclear how well Pixelton Adventures performs.
“We will need to collect more feedback from those who use it,” she said. “The response so far has been very good.”
Gallagher said Pixelton Adventures had over 450 users in its first month.
“Some teachers use it as a whole class,” she said.
Candor Health Education is a nonprofit organization that educates students, adults, and communities about puberty, sexuality, and drug education. The organization provides science-based information in a safe and engaging environment so that students gain age-appropriate knowledge that prepares them to make informed decisions that positively impact their health.
Chuck Fieldman is a freelance journalist for Pioneer Press.