In partnership with the Paul Ramsay Foundation, researchers at the University of Sydney's Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use have 'refreshed and rebranded' the effective Climate Schools program to align with the latest evidence and ensure the content is accessible and relevant to young people today. This newly enhanced program also comes with a new name, OurFutures.
The program includes a suite of universal (i.e., delivered to all students, regardless of risk) courses that utilise interactive cartoon storyboards and class activities to engage and educate students.
"More than a decade has gone into developing, evaluating, and refining, the 'Climate Schools' eHealth programs for wellbeing," says Professor Nicola Newton, Director of prevention at the Matilda Centre.
The rigorous development and review process spreads over two decades with the effectiveness of the program established in seven large randomised controlled trials including more than 14,600 students from 169 schools across Australia. A recent study that assessed participants 7-years after program delivery showed OurFutures is the first of its kind to have lasting effects (up to age 20), reducing risky drinking and related harms into early adulthood.
There are currently 5 modules available:
"While we maintain the core components of the program that have strong evidence of effectiveness, we recognise the need to modernise and refine the materials over time," says team lead, Dr Lauren Gardner. "We worked closely with young people to identify what needed to be updated, such as colloquial language, fashion and technology, to allow them to immerse themselves in the stories and develop skills that can be applied in their own lives" she explains. There are also a number of other new features to help teachers and students get the most of out of the program.
The new features include:
In consultation with young people, the cartoon imagery, language, and storylines have been updated to ensure they are relevant and believable for today’s youth.
All modules and materials have been reviewed and refined to reflect the latest evidence and health information, while maintaining the core components that have established evidence of effectiveness in extensive trials.
Teachers are provided with unit plans that map the content to the Australian HPE and NSW PDHPE curriculums (other state-based curriculums coming soon).
Voiceovers have been added to the cartoons to support lower literacy and vision impaired students, in addition to a multilingual translation tool and screen reader available on all website pages.
Each lesson is complemented by interactive online activities (additional worksheet-based activities also available) which can be assigned in activity mode, where students receive immediate feedback, or assessment mode, where teachers can mark responses in the marking centre.
A forum for teachers to share resources and discuss materials with all teachers registered on the OurFutures website.
Feedback from teachers and students alike has been overwhelmingly positive, with the format of interactive cartoon storyboards a standout feature.
Digital programs that can be easily accessed, whether in times of school- or home-based learning, have been particularly valuable over the past two years. The OurFutures team consulted with teachers and peak education bodies to understand how best to support and respond to their needs.
OurFutures is available free-of-charge in Terms 1 and 2 of 2022. Professor Maree Teesson, Matilda Centre Director, says that "this offer ensures Australian students, teachers and parents have access to high-quality, evidence-based health and wellbeing education."
The team behind OurFutures invite schools to access the complete suite of resources for FREE in Terms 1 and 2 of 2022.
Learn more at ourfutures.education.
OurFutures is led by Professor Maree Teesson & Professor Nicola Newton. The current OurFutures team includes Dr Lauren Gardner, Dr Katrina Champion, Ms Lyra Egan, Ms Scarlett Smout, Ms Sophia Spallek and Ms Miriam Delailomaloma.
The development and evaluation of OurFutures was made possible through a number of research grants and fellowships awarded to Professor Teesson, Professor Newton, Dr Champion, Dr Vogl and their colleagues, at the Matilda Centre, the University of Sydney, and the University of New South Wales.
The OurFutures team are always open to feedback and ideas to improve the program. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org to let them know what you think!