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Guardians: Paradise Island
Pros: Research-based approach. Encourages practical, simple real-world activities.
Cons: No web version. Text heavy. Won't be as relevant to those serious issues. No classroom connections.
Bottom Line: This trustworthy app could be a playful supplement to a mental health curriculum, but might be challenging to implement in classrooms.
How Can I Teach with This Tool?
Guardians: Paradise Island is an iOS and Android app for mental health and well-being. The app, developed at MIT, is rooted in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques, most notably Behavioral Activation. It uses gamification to encourage players to get out in the world and do things that'll shift their perspectives and build positive habits. Players collect and train pets like in Pokémon by sending them out on missions. Alongside the pet training, players also get adventures they must go on. These adventures involve real world activities that get players to practice mindfulness, connectedness, and wonder. Adventures and pet missions earn players rewards. All of the real world activities involve basic self-reflection. Students can supply an email to save their progress and continue the game over weeks.
While there's not a significant connection to instruction or classrooms, teachers could use Guardians: Paradise Island to supplement their lessons on mental health and well-being. It's suitable for a wide range of grades, and could be a valuable tool to show students different strategies for maintaining mental well-being and potentially form new habits. The fact students get out in the world and practice these strategies on their own time (if they use the app honestly) is a neat way to connect classroom discussions to at-home learning. The rewards system could really work for some students; others may find it a little lacking if they're already playing similar games. Some students might fake their participation entirely (and there's really no way of knowing if they did). Even so, the basic premise and content in the app is neat and it shows students something very valuable: that small steps can have a big impact on mental well-being. It'd be nice, though, to see some of the materials adapted for use as standalone lessons or activities outside of the app. Doing so could allow the content to be used by an even wider variety of classrooms and students.