How it works

Project Northland employs grade-specific tasks, exercises, and activities in a variety of highly engaging, interactive formats--such as comic books and posters--to reach young people at an age when they are most likely to try alcohol. Because this program includes important community components, it can be effectively implemented by schools as well as by community programs.

Study outcomes

Project Northland is a CSAP-approved curriculum with proven outcomes. Overall, outcomes from an initial three-year test of the program show that, relative to the control group, students who participated in Project Northland demonstrated reduced levels of alcohol, marijuana, and cigarette use and displayed more resilient behaviors. Students who participated in Project Northland:

  • Showed reduced levels of alcohol use
    • 30% lower weekly drinking
    • 20% lower monthly drinking
  • Engaged in significantly less cigarette and alcohol use over time
    • 27% lower use of cigarettes by the end of eighth grade
    • 27% lower use of alcohol by the end of eighth grade
  • Demonstrated markedly lower drug use by eighth grade. Intervention group students who never drank alcohol at the beginning of sixth grade showed
    • 50% lower marijuana use by the end of eighth grade
    • 37% lower cigarette use by the end of eighth grade


Slick Tracy

The Slick Tracy Home Team Program brings 6th grade students together with their families to complete fun and educational activities at home. Using activity books, this four-week program provides a forum for 6th graders and their families to discuss alcohol-related issues.

A central story presented through comic strips, activities, tips for parents, and a scorecard of participation, along with prizes awarded for participation, make this curriculum an easy and fun way for families to discuss the serious issue of alcohol. Along with the home-based program is the Slick Tracy Poster Fair, during which 6th grade students present their own alcohol-related research projects to their parents and the community.

Amazing Alternatives

The Amazing Alternatives curriculum for 7th grade students consists of eight 45-minute classroom sessions of peer-led experiential activities including audio tapes made by kids their age, group discussions, class games, problem solving, and role plays. These activities are designed to teach students skills to identify and resist influences to use alcohol, to change the acceptability of alcohol use, and to encourage alcohol-free alternatives. The primary goal of the program is to delay the onset of alcohol use among 7th graders.


Powerlines, an eight-session, four-week interactive program for 8th grade students, is designed to reinforce the messages and behaviors learned in 6th and 7th grade Project Northland curricula. Powerlines introduces 8th graders to professional and political groups within communities that influence adolescents' alcohol use. Through work on small group projects, students learn about these groups and the influences they have within their own communities. Student projects also give 8th graders opportunities to become positive influences within their communities, schools, peer groups, and with younger students.

Class Action

Class Action looks at the real-world social and legal consequences involving teens and alcohol. Teens are divided into six to eight Class Action legal teams to prepare and present hypothetical civil cases in which someone has been harmed as a result of underage drinking. Each team is given a casebook that contains the facts of their case, affidavits and depositions, and all legal and other information needed to argue their case. These cases include:

  • Drinking and Driving on Trial
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome on Trial
  • Drinking and Violence on Trial
  • Date Rape on Trial
  • Drinking and Vandalism on Trial
  • School Alcohol Policies on Trial
  • Drinking and Hazing on Trial
  • Binge-Drinking on Trial


What makes these curricula successful? All Project Northland curricula use prevention education which has been successfully implemented in a variety of settings. Home-based correspondence programs which involve parents have been well received by families in other health programs similar to Project Northland.

Two prevention research projects at the University of Minnesota involved looking at the importance of involving parents through a home-based program. The first sought changes in healthy eating habits in order to prevent heart disease. The second was a program designed to prevent kids from starting to smoke cigarettes. Both studies showed that involving parents through home programs can achieve high parental participation and promote positive behavior change in young people. During the Project Northland study, nearly 90 percent of parents participated in the home-based programs.

Peer groups also influence adolescent health behavior. Peers serve as sources of information and role models for new social behaviors. Project Northland takes advantage of the importance of peers by using peer leaders in the classroom programs. Peer-led instruction uses and enhances the positive impact of peer groups, minimizes their negative potential, and improves the credibility of the program. Peer leaders are perceived as more credible sources of social information than adults, and they serve to create and reinforce new behavior patterns. Positive peer influence was one of the primary outcomes of the Project Northland study.

(From University of Minnesota School of Public Health)