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Helping schoolchildren learn the 'Sustainability Game'

17 January 2011 Leicester, University of

An African field trip has inspired students and academics from the University of Leicester  to develop a unique game for schools, to help children learn about sustainable living.

The Sustainability Game, which has already proved a hit with youngsters in Kenya, is now being made available to UK schools at a time of growing awareness and interest in ‘green’ and sustainability issues. There are currently more than 14,000 Eco-schools in the UK, and more than 1,000 have a Green Flag – indicating they have a strong whole-school commitment to environmental issues.

The game was inspired by a visit to Lake Bogoria by members of the University’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Science. Students worked on a number of projects with local people, ranging from examining rare plant species to helping with water harvesting, on their module called ‘Sustainable Livelihoods’, part of a degree theme called Sustainability..

The game promotes the sustainable use of natural resources, and was devised in consultation with local people, who guided the students on the difficulties in their everyday lives and what issues were particularly important to them. It is based on a thousands of years-old game called Bao, played anywhere with stones and two rows of 8 hollows in the ground. Archaeologists have found the game’s hollow pattern carved into rock at prehistoric sites.

Emma Tebbs,  one of the students involved in developing the game and currently a PhD student and Graduate Teaching Assistant for the Interdisciplinary Science course, said: “The game teaches the students the importance of taking enough for their own needs without taking so much that the environment is damaged for future generations. It gives UK students the chance to think about what sustainability means in the context of a developing country, before relating it back to their own life.”

Matt Howard, one of the University of Leicester students, played the game with local children.

He said: “Some of the students in the village enjoyed the game so much that they played it for four hours straight”.

“Taking part in this trip has made me realise how we take the resources we use for granted. Hearing the local people talk about the effects of the recent droughts and understanding how important the resource of water is to the community, I have since been far more careful about how I use this precious resource now I am back home.”

Children playing the Sustainability Game must learn how to use resources such as water, trees, swamps and pastures, crops, honey, wildlife and livestock. The game teaches them how closely these are interlinked and the impact of using each resource on all the others. The game is also used as part of the Sustainable Futures Masterclass offered by the University of Leicester Centre as outreach to school and colleges.

Teachers can download the game from the Centre’s website, where a voluntary donation can be paid to help the local community at Lake Bogoria.

The game supports, and is supported by, short films about sustainability which have been made by Kenyan and Tanzanian film-makers, trained by a team of British film-makers under a project funded by the Darwin Initiative, called CBCF (Community-based Biodiversity Conservation Films), that Dr David Harper, the originator of the iScience module, directs.

Dr Harper is a Senior Lecturer in Ecology & Conservation Biology in the Biology Department and contributes to the iScience degree in ecology and sustainability issues. He has conducted scientific research in Kenya & Tanzania for over 25 years, focussed upon the sustainability of water – a highly limiting resources in an arid country like Kenya, which will shortly become limiting in a country like Britain where so much is wated.

A teacher’s pack containing game materials and a short film on sustainability issues in Lake Bogoria is being developed and will be available shortly.

To download the game and for more information about the outreach courses, go to http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/interdisciplinary-science/outreach and:

http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/interdisciplinary-science/outreach/sustainable-futures-resource

Attached files

  • The Game Board. Credit: University of Leicester


  • Students from Emsos School in Lake Bogoria playing the game. Credit: University of Leicester


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