Warren County and Skyline Middle School students can play as alien creatures to learn life skills in a new online game.

Warren County Public Schools started implementing LST Galaxia earlier this year and seventh- and eighth-grade students began playing in March. The interactive game helps students develop skills to handle bullying with a focus on cyberbullying, substance abuse and violence, division Middle School Coordinator Meredith Bloomfield said by phone Monday.

“So, in Galaxia, there are parts of the game where ... pictures are being sent out about them by an anonymous person and it kind of talks the user or the student through how to handle that, who to go to,” Bloomfield said. “(Galaxia) gives them better ideas and better mechanisms to utilize.”

The game also touches on peer pressure. In one scenario, which takes place during a dance in a cafe on college campus, someone puts alcohol in the punch, Bloomfield recalled. Some of the characters pressure the player into drinking the punch and the student must choose the right action to take, she said.

“It does give some practical, I would say, life skills for the real world,” Bloomfield said. “It’s stuff that they might deal with.”

This is the first time the school division has used Galaxia so the program’s effectiveness in teaching the skills is not yet known, she said. Bloomfield can monitor students’ progress through the self-paced game. Students must play the game to complete the program, she said.

Galaxia aims to promote mental health and positive youth development through social and emotional learning, Bloomfield said. Galaxia gives students a place to master skills in topics such as decision-making, self-image and self-improvement as well as resolving conflicts, she explained. The game challenges players to choose how to respond in certain situations.

Students choose an avatar and accessorize the character. They play in settings that vary from a space lab, a dorm, a performing arts center, a cafe, a boarding school in which students must choose a major in the supernatural arts.

LST Galaxia is designed to reinforce skills taught in the Botvin LifeSkills Training Middle School Program, administered in the division for nine years via workbooks, Bloomfield explained. The game’s interactive play likely may appeal to students more than workbooks, she said.

“We’ve gotten a lot of really good feedback from the students,” Bloomfield said. “It sounds maybe a little silly because they have the avatar and they get to dress up their little alien.”

School officials plan to bring Galaxia back next year so seventh-grade students playing now can access level two, Bloomfield said.

The school division has taught the same skills as exemplified in the game for years. Bloomfield said she is working with the middle-school principals to come up with a way to make sure students know they need to participate in the program.

Warren Coalition purchased program licenses for the middle schools with a grant from Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, the Warren Coalition. The grant requires that students participate in the program, Bloomfield said. Students must complete level one by the April 30 deadline. Players who complete modules are entered into a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card. Each week for four weeks, two students per grade per school will receive the gift cards.

– Contact Alex Bridges at abridges@nvdaily.com