Going Green with Gamified Learning: Advancing Sustainability through Interactive Learning

By Taieb Oussaifi and Torben Schmidt

As I com­pose this blog post, a dis­qui­et­ing real­i­ty is emerg­ing: record-break­ing tem­per­a­tures are soar­ing to unprece­dent­ed heights, thrust­ing the world into the clutch­es of dire reper­cus­sions. Touristy sites, once char­ac­ter­ized by pleas­ant tem­per­a­tures, have now mor­phed into a relent­less bat­tle­ground against cli­mate crises. The recent heat waves in South­ern Europe and North­ern Africa as well as the wild­fires in Cana­da and on Hawaii stand as an unequiv­o­cal reminder that cli­mate change rep­re­sents a seri­ous threat need­ing imme­di­ate and col­lec­tive action.

In light of these alarm­ing cir­cum­stances, the sig­nif­i­cance of sus­tain­abil­i­ty edu­ca­tion becomes all the more appar­ent in rais­ing aware­ness and equip­ping future gen­er­a­tions with the nec­es­sary knowl­edge and skills to com­bat cli­mate change’s esca­lat­ing tolls.

“Going Green – Edu­ca­tion for Sus­tain­abil­i­ty” is a blend­ed-learn­ing project designed for Eng­lish as a For­eign Lan­guage (EFL) and Con­tent and Lan­guage Inte­grat­ed Learn­ing (CLIL) in upper-sec­ondary class­rooms in both the Unit­ed States and Ger­many. Its cen­tral mis­sion revolves around cul­ti­vat­ing engage­ment and forg­ing con­nec­tions between Ger­man and U.S. learn­ers, encour­ag­ing them to explore envi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges and embrace sus­tain­abil­i­ty prac­tices as viable solu­tions to cli­mate crises. Going Green, cur­rent­ly in its ninth cycle, is finan­cial­ly sup­port­ed by the U.S. Embassy in Berlin. Notably, since its incep­tion in 2014, the project has attract­ed over 6,800 par­tic­i­pants, includ­ing a net­work com­pris­ing approx­i­mate­ly 700 ded­i­cat­ed teach­ers from both countries.

Going Green’s cur­ricu­lum has been recent­ly enhanced through the inte­gra­tion of three the­mat­i­cal­ly per­ti­nent mod­ules: Youth Par­tic­i­pa­tion, Green Ener­gy, and Envi­ron­men­tal Jus­tice. These new mod­ules con­sist of com­pelling con­tent, intri­cate research inquiries, and stim­u­lat­ing dis­cus­sion prompts. While the Youth Par­tic­i­pa­tion mod­ule looks into engag­ing young indi­vid­u­als in sus­tain­abil­i­ty ini­tia­tives, the Green Ener­gy mod­ule explores the land­scape of renew­able ener­gy sources and brings their poten­tial to light. The mod­ule Envi­ron­men­tal Jus­tice unveils the intri­cate nexus between mat­ters of social jus­tice and envi­ron­men­tal concerns.

More­over, the exist­ing mod­ules have under­gone revi­sion to incor­po­rate fresh con­tent. Notably, we includ­ed four new online inter­ac­tive games to offer stu­dents an array of option­al activ­i­ties that extend beyond tra­di­tion­al learn­ing avenues. In fact, the intro­duc­tion of gam­ing with­in edu­ca­tion­al con­texts has gar­nered recog­ni­tion for its ped­a­gog­i­cal ben­e­fits. Gam­ing rein­forces both stu­dents’ engage­ment and expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing. By immers­ing stu­dents in vir­tu­al envi­ron­ments, games stim­u­late active par­tic­i­pa­tion and fos­ter prob­lem-solv­ing capabilities.

The new­ly embed­ded games are replete with inter­ac­tive fea­tures. For exam­ple, the game Sus­tain­abil­i­ty Threads offers play­ers an immer­sive jour­ney through the life­cy­cle of mate­ri­als trans­formed into cloth­ing. In addi­tion to advanc­ing an under­stand­ing of sus­tain­abil­i­ty con­cepts, it also stim­u­lates ana­lyt­i­cal think­ing as play­ers deci­pher intri­cate process­es. Sim­i­lar­ly, StadtK­li­maAr­chitekt, a prod­uct of the Excel­lence Clus­ter CliS­AP at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ham­burg, also extends beyond cli­mate impact aware­ness. This game – designed to enhance knowl­edge about the influ­ence of dif­fer­ent archi­tec­tur­al designs on cli­mate – serves, at the same time, as an are­na to sharp­en urban plan­ning and strate­gic think­ing skills. Among the array of inter­ac­tive games, Food Choic­es for a Healthy Plan­et stands per­haps as the most cap­ti­vat­ing fusion of edu­ca­tion and deci­sion-mak­ing. With­in this game, a col­lec­tion of engag­ing microblog arti­cles, Your Food Choic­es Explained touch­es on diverse top­ics, rang­ing from cli­mate and cul­ture to health and health­care. The series, writ­ten by a com­mu­ni­ty of experts, delves into nutri­tion­al chal­lenges and argues that informed choic­es in food con­sump­tion can pave the way for the devel­op­ment of sus­tain­able dietary habits and guidelines.

Take a look at our project and try out our demo course to explore the many cap­ti­vat­ing activities.

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Taieb Ous­saifi is a Research Asso­ciate with the Insti­tute of Eng­lish Stud­ies at Leuphana Uni­ver­si­ty Lüneb­urg. In his cur­rent role as the project man­ag­er of the Going Green project, he assumes the key respon­si­bil­i­ty for the devel­op­ment of learn­ing materials.

Tor­ben Schmidt is Pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish Didac­tics at the Insti­tute of Eng­lish Stud­ies at Leuphana Uni­ver­si­ty Lüneb­urg. His fields of inter­ests are for­eign lan­guage learn­ing and the dig­i­tal media, self-direct­ed learn­ing and project work in the Eng­lish as a For­eign Lan­guage (EFL) class­room, teach­ing EFL in ele­men­tary schools, dra­ma in edu­ca­tion, and the teach­ing of lis­ten­ing and speaking.