For years, the extent of American health education was a gym teacher rolling out the slide projector and droning on about the evils of drugs, alcohol, and sex. But Reva McPollom, an entrepreneur with a background in digital learning, believes that today’s generation needs a modern version of health education that meets students “where they’re at.”
“When I was kid, I struggled to feel healthy and connected in and out of school, and I just started to connect the dots on how fundamental it is to have access to quality health education,” says McPollom. Rather than a waste of time or the butt of a joke, health class can be the place for “preparing people for the human economy, combatting racism, promoting empathy, promoting inclusivity, and all these various things.”
That’s why McPollom created Lessonbee in 2016 to provide diverse, self-paced, digital health courses for Grades K–12. The platform features familiar lessons — “How Vaping Affects the Body,” “Taking Care of Your Body During Puberty,” “Benefits of Physical Activity” — but presents them through interactive stories.
In the Vaping course, you follow a high school student named Karina as she’s exposed to tobacco products for the first time. You scroll through her Instagram feed, make choices about her behavior, and read dialogue presented like a group text between friends. The idea is to engage with students in familiar, interesting ways, which will hopefully help the lessons stick.
Courses on Lessonbee are available a la carte to anybody for a small fee, but schools are the platform’s ultimate customer. One of McPollom’s major wins was being approved by Chicago Public Schools, the third largest school district in the U.S., with a 10,000-student pilot launching in January 2021 through the Office of Student Health and Wellness. Lessonbee also has its eyes set on Texas, an influential state whose standards are often used as a template for other states to adapt.
Health education is nuanced, with each state, district, and school having its own standards on the curriculum, but Lessonbee isn’t here to check off the minimum requirements.
“I think you need to have a perspective on what kids need to know on being healthy. And you bring that into it, and it goes beyond what is state or nationally required because we’re not trying to just check the box,” says McPollom. “We’re really trying to create an environment where kids feel safer and healthier and more connected.”
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