In the year 2747, the internet could be powered by mushrooms. In 2107, the entire human population might live underground. Perhaps Earth will be made up of floating cities in 2099.
These possible futures were explored by over 350 middle school students as part of the alternate reality game Cene—created by an interdisciplinary group of game designers based at UChicago.
Seventh-grade students at Bret Harte Elementary, UChicago Woodlawn Charter, and the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools piloted a three-week “narrative scavenger hunt,” tackling themes and quests related to climate change.
The game’s name comes from “Anthropocene”—the name given for our current geological era defined by human impact on the environment. For Prof. Patrick Jagoda, climate change is a huge issue that students tend to learn about too late.
“If this is a generational issue that is going to impact policy, economics, everyday wellbeing for these students—why not start when they’re 12 years old?” asked Jagoda, Cene’s co-director.
When science teacher Tony Del Campo asked his seventh-graders what they wanted to learn that year, “A lot of kids said, ‘What is climate change? What's global warming? How can I do something to help?'” said Del Campo, who teaches at UChicago's Laboratory Schools. “I think they're getting the sense that ‘I live in this world. I’m a citizen. I need to figure out how to make this world last for me and and after me.’”