The National Institutes of Health is spending over $800,000 on a "virtual learning world" for poor teenagers so they can "experience possible selves."
A four-year study was awarded to Research, Evaluation, and Social Solutions, Inc. to create an afterschool program for kids to play "Me Games" that use virtual reality.
Recent Stories in Issues
"The word adolescence derives from the Latin word ‘adolescere,’ meaning, ‘to grow up,’" the grant for the project begins. "Adolescence is a crucial period of transition between childhood and legal adulthood, with individuals following more uncertain and complex paths based on gender, race, ethnicity, social class, and geography."
The goal of the games is to allow poor children to experience alternate realities.
"Possible identities reflect how individuals think about their potential and their futre [sic]," the grant said. "Adolescents living in under-resourced environments rarely have the opportunities or means to reflect on and consider their future goals, dreams, threats, fears, and assets. Hence, an intervention focusing on these elements is necessary."
The funding will go towards completing four "Me Games" for kids to play after school. The games are called "My World Of Dreams," "The Valley of Others," "Disappointments Bridge," and "The Sea of Hope."
Young teens at local Boys and Girls Clubs will be enlisted to play the games.
"The goal of ME GAMES(tm) is to support early adolescents' successful transition to adulthood by increasing their academic engagement, motivation, and performance through digital learning activities that make the future feel close and connected to the present, promote a productive interpretation of experienced difficulties and create a link between possible selves and current action," the grant said. "Using a virtual world with different Edugames, not only creates a feasible and scalable alternative to a totally face-to-face intervention, it also offers an appealing space [i]n its own right, especially for early adolescents, aged 11-14."
The project, which is entitled "A Virtual Learning World for Tweens to Experience Possible Selves," has cost taxpayers $839,291 so far.