A World-First Education Program for the Pacific Islands
Every year, more than 36 million people die worldwide due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs). While the problem is global, in the Pacific Islands it is more pronounced, with over 70% of deaths caused by NCDs. This has led Pacific Governments to declare an ‘NCD Crisis’ in the region.
In response to this crisis, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) innovationXchange held a hackathon bringing together nutrition experts and technology practitioners to discuss how new technologies could be leveraged to address the issue of malnutrition and NCDs. Building on ideas that emerged from the event, creative technology company S1T2 created Beyond the Stars (BTS).
BTS is a comprehensive health education program made with and for the people of the Pacific Islands. Spanning film, virtual reality, storybooks and a mobile game, BTS uses transmedia storytelling and interactive technology to inspire primary school children to adopt healthy eating habits. Created in collaboration with local Pacific Islanders and international experts, the program brings together health research, regional policy and school curriculum to combat some of the behavioural risk factors of NCDs.
The BTS program was piloted over the course of five weeks in 2018 with over 300 primary school children across urban, rural and remote areas of Fiji. At its conclusion, the program’s end-of-pilot evaluation found that BTS had a significant impact on children’s attitudes towards healthy eating. Copies of this report, and more information about the program, are available upon request.
A transmedia story brought to life through technology
The program begins by introducing children to the mythical world of BTS through an animated cinematic. Extending the rich Fijian tradition of oral storytelling with vibrant visuals, the cinematic lays out the basic story and world of BTS, giving children a glimpse of the adventure to come.
After watching the cinematic, children were given the chance to become the hero of their own story through a virtual reality (VR) experience. In this immersive experience, children are able to actively explore the fantastic world of BTS through a series of familiar yet stylised environments that come to life before their eyes. The VR also gives children a crucial experience of agency as they choose to embark upon their quest to bring health and happiness back to the Pacific.
Children continue their BTS journey in class through an educational storybook and an interactive game. Supported by example lesson plans, the BTS storybook combines curriculum, national policies and global recommendations into a vibrant learning resource through which children learn about healthy eating, physical education and the environment.
In addition to the BTS storybook, children were also provided an opportunity to reinforce educational content through an interactive game pre-loaded onto tablet devices. Designed to capitalise on principles of play-based and tangential learning, the interactive game provides children a more hands-on and engaging approach to exploring educational content.
- Adobe Creative Suite.
- Allegorithmic Substance Painter,
- Autodesk Maya,
- NVIDIA Flow,
- PHP Slim Framework,
- Pixologic ZBrush,
- Unreal Engine 4,
- Visual Studio.
- Huawei M3 Tablet,
- Oculus Rift DK2.
- Google Drive API,
- REST Services.
Collaboration and iteration produce tangible results
In creating the BTS pilot, S1T2 undertook an extensive discovery, design and development process over the course of two years. Making a number of in-country field visits to Fiji, the team prioritised working with local storytellers, teachers and experts to create the program. This kind of collaborative process helped ensure materials created were both culturally appropriate and educationally sound.
Throughout the innovation process and the pilot itself, the S1T2 team also conducted rigorous Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E). This M&E culminated in an end-of-pilot report assessing the success of the pilot and the future scalability of the BTS program. According to this report, the BTS pilot achieved the following key outcomes:
- Participating children showed an average 11% increase in their ability to identify healthy foods
- Participating children were, on average, 14% more likely to want healthy foods, 37-58% less likely to want unhealthy foods.
- 78% of facilitating teachers observed a positive change in children’s eating behaviours as a result of the program.
- 88% of parents interviewed reported changes in their family’s attitudes and behaviours around healthy eating.
- All teachers and parents spoken to valued the use of storytelling and innovative technologies, with 67% of teachers suggesting this approach was more effective than traditional methods.
If you’d like a copy of the M&E report, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.