HAMILTON police believe an e-learning website they developed with teachers and students could be the tipping point to lower methamphetamine use in the south-west.
The program called 'D-FORCE' aims to teach years seven to nine students about the risks of ice use, and equips them with facts about the highly addictive substance.
It contains a lesson package for classroom teaching with videos and interactive scenarios where students draw pictures on virtual bodies to show the health effects of ice use.
It also includes a serious educational board game, similar to the Game of Life, that reinforces students' knowledge as they navigate through challenges and worlds to protect themselves and their friends from the dangers of ice.
Sergeant Kelly McNaughton led a committee that is trialing the program at Hamilton secondary schools this month, following four years of workshops and design work with teachers and students from Hamilton and Alexandra College, Monivae College, Baimbridge College and Good Shepard College.
"It's about learning how ice affects your body, it's about learning what support is out there beyond just your mum and dad," Sergeant McNaughton said.
"We are trying to equip kids with a self resilience, before they get impacted by peer group pressure or find themselves being offered the drug."
The committee is now working to convert the student-designed board game into a 3D computer game, which they plan to roll out Victoria-wide next year.
Work on the project began in 2015 when Sergeant McNaughton and her colleague Sergeant Paula Cutler joined with Hamilton secondary teachers, students, community members and a councillor to address ice usage among young people in the south-west.
At the time, Hamilton had seen a surge in ice-related crime, and the affects of ice use were widespread in the community.
Sergeant McNaughton said 15-to-24-year-olds in the south-west Barwon region had the highest rate of entry into hospitals for ice-related illnesses or injuries in Victoria.
"Unfortunately I see young people using ice, and I see young people feeling the affects of ice from family members using it," she said.
"I see them getting ready to go off to school, while we are doing our police business in the home around them. The average person would not be aware of the depth of the ice problem, but unfortunately I am."
Sergeant McNaughton said changing those trends in the long-term might not be through conventional policing, but awareness raising with digital technology in classrooms.
"No one else is trying this in Australia. We are educating in schools, sowing a resilience seed, before the kids get exposed to the scourge of ice," she said.
Sergeant McNaughton said the program's strengths were that older students had developed the serious educational game for younger students.
"They developed the game component, and the beauty of it is that they know what kids are interested in. So it's peer-to-peer learning, because they are actually doing something for the younger kids."
Sergeant McNaughton said some initial results from the program indicated there was a worrying level of misconception about the addictive nature of the drug and its affects on the body.
"Thirty-three per cent of students thought that maybe you would become addicted to ice after you used it a couple of times. This is frightening when you understand how addictive this drug is," she said.
"Even after the first two weeks of implementing this program into the schools, we have seen the value of it in educating young people about how addictive this drug can be."
The e-learning website can be viewed at www.dforce.org.au
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