UW’s Illuminate teaches youth about climate change solutions

Science Game Courtesy Illuminate

The University of Waterloo’s Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change (IC3) and Games Institute has launched an interactive, science-based desktop game called Illuminate to teach Canadian youth about modern climate change solutions. 

Illuminate works to showcase climate science in a way that is comprehensible for Canadian youth. The game includes interactive scenarios where students make thoughtful choices about dealing with certain types of climate change challenges. This includes rural (agriculture), urban (cities, heat), coastal areas (flooding, effects from storm surges), and more. Illuminate is meant to be played through multiple times, so students get a good idea of how climate policy works in Canada and internationally.  The game involves using coins to make solution choices, which also helps teach youth about the costs and benefits of policy choices as they act as the policymakers. For ease of use, the game has a narration feature. The graphics are also easy to comprehend, and there is no timer. 

“We officially launched the game in January 2021 due to the setbacks related to the pandemic and lockdowns. Currently, it resides on our university website, and we have partners that help spread awareness and draw attention to it externally,” said Simon Glauser, the Managing Director of UWaterloo’s Climate Change Centre. When it was originally launched in January of 2019, the game was intended to be sent out to local school boards for Canadian youth from grades 4 to 12. 

UW’s IC3 specifically works with a group in schools called “Protect Our Winters Canada” and one of their programs “Hot Planet, Cool Athletes.” Glauser mentioned that “one of their mandates is to get climate-change science concepts into the hands of teachers and students – so, they have a platform where they promote the game for us externally, aside from the work that we do ourselves to meet with school boards about integrating it into local teaching.” 

They added that this was a significant collaboration on campus between IC3 and the Games Institute — “It’s completely science-based, coming from the University of Waterloo as our starting point. We are a research institute, first and foremost. So, we aimed for this game to really be at that interface between science and education. We really wanted to translate that science into a useful format for our younger groups in schools.”

By targeting this earlier educational cohort before they get to university, Illuminate aims to help spread general awareness about the complexities of climate change and its solutions. As Glauser said about what the game teaches youth, “there is no perfect solution but staying the course in status-quo is certainly not the desirable one here.” 

Currently, the game is only available for Chrome, Android and PC with no mobile version. Users can download it and play anywhere or click “run” on the browser, until a mobile version is created – which is currently in the works.