UK (University of Lincoln) Lincoln Team Shortlisted for National Inclusivity and Sustainability Classroom Innovation Award

Senior Lincoln academics have been shortlisted for a national Pearson Higher Education (HE) Innovate Award 2022 in the category ‘Most innovative approach to bringing inclusivity and sustainability into the classroom’.

This category of the Pearson HE Innovate Award recognises projects that bring equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) challenges and sustainability into sharp focus through teaching, while demonstrating a commitment to community. These focus points are visible throughout Lincoln’s project which positions HE students in local classrooms where they lead environmental games.

University of Lincoln, UK, academics Dr Theresa Mercer, Project Lead and Senior Lecturer in Biogeography & Planetary Health, and Dr Andrew Kythreotis, Senior Lecturer in Social and Political Geography and a Lincoln Climate Commissioner, ask their students to create, play and deliver games centred around sustainability to primary and secondary students producing a variety of impressive outcomes detailed in their submission for the award.

The initiative was multi-functional: with HE students leading games, they were helping with teacher capacity while enhancing younger pupils’ knowledge on sustainability and climate change issues, in addition to reinforcing their own understanding by embedding what they have learnt into a working game design.

Dr Theresa Mercer said: “This project highlights the important role that our students can have on their own learning and understanding of sustainability as well as the significant impact they are having on future generations.

“These sorts of innovative approaches demonstrate that environmentally-literate HE students are well-placed to make a real difference to society; they have the evidence-based academic knowledge, buckets of creativity and are accessible to school pupils.

“Perhaps most importantly, the use of learning-by-design and serious game play has shown that learning about sustainability can be engaging, fun and relevant to all age groups from primary to tertiary level.”

Over the years Dr Mercer has been leading the project, students have covered a great breadth of topics including waste management, biodiversity loss and gain, pollution, climate change, fast fashion and reaching net zero in their in-person and virtual game designs.

Dr Kythreotis said: “Working on this project has enabled us to more inclusively reach the general public, particularly younger people, in ways that move beyond formal government climate policy.

“Young people have been able to enjoy playing these pro-environmental games at events like last year’s Lincoln Climate Summit organised by Lincolnshire County Council, the Climate Action Week organised by the University of Lincoln, and numerous events organised by the City of Lincoln Council and the Lincoln Climate Commission. One PhD student Theresa and I are currently supervising has even played some of these games with school pupils in Tuvalu, in the South Pacific!”

The project has been wide-reaching following its continued success which has been monitored via surveying HE students on the module and the school students who played the games.

This research revealed that 81% of the 32 HE students who participated in the study in 2012 would like to see this type of game creation assessment run in the following year and 63% felt they had developed new skills.

Of 79 Key Stage 2 children surveyed in 2022, 74% said that they enjoyed or really enjoyed playing the game with reasons including enjoyment, the educational aspects and the competitive element while 64% stated that the game had encouraged them to learn more about sustainability and the environment.

The results of the Pearson HE Innovate Awards will be announced on 8 December 2022 at a live online ceremony.