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Special Project

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From the 11th Annual Shorty Awards

Operation Prevention

Entered in Creative use of Technology

About this entry

Every day, 115 Americans die from an opioid overdose, and overdose deaths have quadrupled since 1999 (CDC). To address this epidemic, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Discovery Education partnered to launch "Operation Prevention," an initiative purposed to educate K-12 students about the impacts of prescription opioid and heroin misuse. The program aims to teach students about the science of addiction, kick-starting lifesaving conversations in the home and classroom. Available at no cost, resources include:

-Educator Lesson Plans – Standards-aligned lessons bring real-world context to science and health classrooms by exploring the science behind opioids' physical and neurological effects.

-Student Resources – Encourage students to investigate impacts of opioids on the brain and body.

-Parent Toolkit – Empowers parents with resources to begin lifesaving conversations at home, detect warning signs and take action.

-Virtual Field Trips – Convey the real-world impact of opioid abuse, with unfiltered facts about drug addiction

-Student Video Challenge – Invites teens to create a unique PSA, aimed to reach their peers, about dangers of opioid misuse. Participating students have the chance to win $10,000.

Discovery continues to update materials that resonate with children and young adults. Most recently, Discovery launched its third in a series of dynamic virtual field trips aimed at educating and involving students in the conversation about opioids. The no-cost, standards-aligned, science-based virtual experience, "Opioid Crisis: Real People. Real Stories. Real Science." was broadcasted to middle and high school classrooms on Thursday, October 25th, 2018, allowing students to enter the world of explore opioids scientifically and personally.

Why does this entry deserve to win?

In October 2016, to combat America's rapidly growing opioid and heroin epidemic, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Discovery Education, the leading provider of digital content and professional development for K-12 classrooms, announced a joint nationwide education initiative called "Operation Prevention," a free science-based education tool for students, teachers, and parents. "Operation Prevention" illuminates the opioid epidemic by teaching students the science behind drug addiction using digital media like video and virtual experiences.

Approximately 200,000 students were first taken beyond their classroom walls with the broadcasted premiere of "The Science Behind Opioid Addiction," the pilot in a series of dynamic learning experiences, at the Operation Prevention program launch in 2016. Since then, Discovery and the DEA have released two additional experiences, "On the Frontlines of the Opioid Epidemic: A Community Fighting Back" that focused on student activism in West Virginia to transform their local drug problem, and the most recent chapter which released on October 25, 2018 with the title, "Opioid Crisis: Real People. Real Stories. Real Science."

During each Virtual Field Trip, Discovery Education and the DEA introduce students to real people on the front lines of the opioid epidemic, to share how opioids have changed their lives. With stories from survivors, community members, and those working tirelessly to make a change, Virtual Field Trips present students with all facets of a community in recovery with a vital, personal look into the opioid epidemic.

The impact is significant, as students are able to see the real faces of addiction and hear personal stories behind initial experimentation and movement from trial, to usage, to addiction. This virtual experience aims to connect students with real people who have been affected by the opioid epidemic in order to inspire a deeper understanding of the dangers of experimentation and the benefits of drug-free living. In four chapters totalling just over 30 minutes, "Real People. Real Stories. Real Science." introduces students to:

-Two retired professional athletes who understand the pressure to play through pain and now focus their efforts on giving alternative pain management options to young athletes.

-A musician who played at Carnegie Hall before becoming addicted and now supports musicians who are in recovery.

-Three generations affected by opioid addiction who define the far-reaching impact of this crisis.

This was an impactful opportunity for "Operation Prevention" to expose students and educators to how prescription drugs affect the brain and body, using testimonials and interviews from those really affected. To drive the point home further, Discovery also launched a student video challenge in 2017, enlisting students to review their peers' video entries and select the best teen-created PSA. The winner of this challenge received $10,000 and the chance to make their PSA vision a reality.


Since launch, the Operation Prevent program has reached 3.4MM students nationwide.

-1.4MM estimated students reached from all three Virtual Field Trips live and on demand audiences has received 358,000 page views.

-Operation Prevention won Best Awareness Campaign/Initiative at the 2017 Cynopsis Social Good Awards.

-Discovery Education and the DEA have also created a mirrored Spanish based on interest from educators, and will be updating all curriculum assets in 2019 to provide the most science-based, standards-aligned resources possible.

Although these numbers demonstrate a growing awareness and interest in learning about opioids, Operation Prevention is committed to developing further digital outreach strategies that resonate with even more online audiences and continue to engage young adults using digital resources.


Video for Operation Prevention

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Discovery Education, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)


Entry Credits