Educational Innovation to Address Climate Change Issues: The Emerging Trend of (Online) Escape Rooms

Educational Innovation to Address Climate Change Issues: The Emerging Trend of (Online) Escape Rooms

Tania Ouariachi, Menno Van Dam
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8645-7.ch013
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In recent years, we have seen an emerging trend: the application of recreational escape rooms to educational purposes to engage students in their learning environment. This trend also applies to higher education and to the complex issue of climate change. The objectives of this chapter are to revise literature in this domain and to share a case study for a digital and educational escape room related to climate change: “Escape Global Warming.” This digital escape room integrates the core concepts of climate change and global warming into a game to familiarize participants with this topic and with actions that can be taken to reduce and counteract the effects of climate change while entertaining. After playing, students acknowledge to being more knowledgeable about the issue and more motivated to learn.
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You have been living in a tight-knit community for a while now, but there’s danger on the horizon. Like every place on earth, Weerwaard will have to face our common enemy: climate change. Your goal will be to save the village from the effects of global warming. To your surprise, you will encounter a lot of challenges and resistance. According to scientists you have just 10 years-time to take the necessary measures to keep society as we know it from falling apart. In this hour, it is up to you to make the right interventions to save Weerwaard from her downfall

This is the example of a scenario in an escape room, a live-action team-based game where players discover clues, solve puzzles, and accomplish tasks in order to achieve a specific goal in a limited time (Nicholson, 2015). The cocktail of time pressure, the puzzles, creativity and collaboration is the reason why this has become a popular activity among colleagues and groups of friends all around the world. Especially in times of pandemic, the concept of escape rooms has been transferred to digital environments. An online escape room is a virtual version of an escape room, in which you enter a digital room that you can see on your screen on your computer. You don’t gather information by searching with your hands, but by clicking on the images in your browser. You can’t see your colleagues or friends standing in the room, but you will hear them talk through the video conferencing platform and you will exchange information this way and through the chat. Usually escape rooms have a certain theme or story that they are telling. It gives more depth and color to the experience.

In recent years, we have seen an emerging trend: the application of recreational escape rooms to educational purposes to engage students in their learning environment, and encourage both hard skills and soft skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication and leadership. This trend also applies to higher education, that perhaps as a reaction to an environment of increasing “performativity” and “instrumentalism”, has experienced a growing interest in this type of educational innovation practices.

Climate change, and global warming as one of the main indicators, has been a recurrent topic for escape rooms. Educating on climate change brings challenges: it is a complex topic to understand for young people, not only for the huge steps that have to be made among different sectors of society, but also for the nature of climate change itself, seen as a slowly progressing force, hardly noticeable and unpredictable (González-Gaudiano & Meira-Cartea, 2009). In addition, we are surrounded by misinformation and have difficulties to distinguish credible sources.

Several studies have suggested that many education efforts might have failed to raise interest and literacy on the topic of climate change, and not necessarily because of little information being available, but because of the way information is conveyed (Moser, 2010, Cooper, 2011). Teaching is successful only when learning -a change in behavior- is achieved, and for that purpose, effective strategies need to be put in place by covering the cognitive, affective and behavioral factors that corresponds to the “head, heart and hands model” (Eze & Nwagu, 2021).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Game Master: A game master (or game facilitator) is a person who acts as an organizer, officiant for regarding rules, arbitrator, and moderator in a game.

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs): Higher education, any of various types of education given in postsecondary institutions of learning and usually affording, at the end of a course of study, a named degree, diploma, or certificate of higher studies. Higher-educational institutions include not only universities and colleges but also various professional schools.

Game Designer: Game designers are professionals who do considerable thinking and writing about what makes play fun, including social play.

Edutainment: A form of entertainment designed to educate as well as to amuse.

Educational Escape Room: Live-action team-based game where players discover clues, solve puzzles, and solve tasks in one or more (digital) rooms in order to accomplish a specific goal in a limited amount of time.

Game-Based Learning: Type of game play with defined learning outcomes.

Climate Change: A change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards and attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.

Gamification: Use of game elements to motivate players to engage in a task, action, or activity they otherwise would not find attractive.

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