Empowering Youth in face of Climate Change

Empowering Youth in face of Climate Change via Gamification

In January 2018, we had an idea about a facilitated climate change workshop that we could take to schools around Finland. Our dream was to give our youth the knowledge and tools that empower them to make better choices to improve their future lives.

We began by creating a framework for the workshop from issues that are relevant to Finnish youth and particularly ones that they can influence in their everyday lives. With this skeleton workshop we contacted schools and found an interested partner from Kuulammen koulu in the municipality of Tyrnävä, which is located in the province of Oulu in the Northern Ostrobothnia region. We met with the school’s geography teachers who enthusiastically invited us to come and host a climate day for the school’s 7thgraders. They briefed us about their wishes regarding the workshop as well as the current skills and knowledge base of the students. What arose from this discussion and ended up guiding the design process was that teachers had noticed their students being decidedly worried about the climate change and what it means for their futures.

Together with the teachers we set an objective for the workshop: to empower the youth in the face of climate change. Keeping a group of 13 to 14 -year-olds interested for 45 minutes in their last week of school before the summer holidays is a challenge in itself. Therefore, we welcomed the idea given to us by the geography teachers to wrap the workshop in a game form.

From these premises we begun the development of our climate change game. In order to create a practical, user-oriented game we utilized the geography book that is in use in the school as reference. The book provided us direct information about the current knowledge base that can be expected from the focus group. The book is up-to-date and of very good quality, which convinced us that these youth have sufficient amount of information to make conscious choices that benefit the environment and the fight to slow down the climate change.

In order to gain the feeling of empowerment, youngsters must feel concretely that they have an opportunity to do something about issues that they find important and wish to change. For this reason, we built the workshop specifically around everyday choices.

Additionally, we wanted to emphasize the impact of youngsters’ every day choices to climate change world-wide. Thus, we decided to send the students on a trip to different parts of the world to study climate change issues. This, we feel, is important because in some cases the effects of climate change are not especially severe in Finland as opposed to other parts of the world. Yet, the choices we make here in a country of high standard of living, high energy consumption and consumption habits to match, may have far reaching consequences.

Here, we found, was our toughest challenge: to provide fact-based information in a way that does not create further despair about the future in the students’ minds. Therefore, in order to fulfil our aim of empowerment, we decided to concentrate on influencing possibilities rather than wallowing too much on the negative effects of climate change.

Bringing play into Climate Change Education

The gaming aspect was implemented by engaging the students into a playful competition between classes (there were 6 classes taking part in the climate change day). The class who gained the most points for good, practical ideas or solutions was the winner.

We chose four issues to address with the game that are current, significant and which young people have a possibility to influence by their choices. These were food, consumption, political decision-making, and water (namely, regarding the effect of our actions here in Finland -where fresh drinking water is aplenty – to water shortages in other parts of the world due to climate change). Around these aspects we created scenarios for which the students were asked to brainstorm ideas.

Climate Day was a Success

The climate day was a true success. We managed to keep the balance between severity of facts and opportunities for positive influencing. Teachers were pleased with the students’ engagement, they found the game useful and in accordance to the set goals. We were told that the game as well as us as facilitators could be “recommended to anyone, anytime”. Personally, the greatest reward for me was to see the youngsters come alive after initial suspicions towards the game as well as us and truly engage in the play. All in all, the experience was a very positive one and it proved to us that we can rest assured that the younger generation is super intelligent, aware and caring for the future of the earth.

Future of the Climate Chance Game

 We were recently exited to receive funding for commercialization and internalization of the climate change game from Business Finland. We are currently working with an expert in creating an internalization strategy and are looking for suitable cooperation partners to make the game available for larger audiences in Finland and abroad.