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How a video game is helping Sask, kids learn about farming


An award-winning documentary has been adapted into an educational, interactive game for students.

Through a partnership with Ag in the Classroom, students can learn valuable lessons about agriculture and ecosystem sustainability using games and technology.

It started as a short film looking at a southern Alberta grazing co-op, but the film highlighted the need to inform Canadians about native grasslands, cattle ranching and the loss of vital ecosystems.

That became Guardians of the Grasslands, a documentary that won multiple awards.

"We were really happy to see it get picked up by film festivals that were focusing on climate change and environmental issues," said Amie Peck, stakeholder engagement manager with the Canadian Cattle Association. "And seeing a piece that highlights farmers and ranchers as part of the solution to climate change, instead of just part of the problem."

Based on the success of the documentary, it was adapted to become an interactive video game accessible to all Canadians.

However game development is expensive, so with a provincial grant, the game was designed to be an educational resource for students to supplement their curriculum.

"We really wanted to reach as many Canadians as possible," said Peck. "But really, students in that critical age range of Grade 7 to 12, where they're learning about climate change, learning about land use."

With only two per cent of Canadians directly involved in agriculture, Peck says the concept of native grassland ecosystems can be abstract.

And getting a class full of students out to visit a farm or ranch is logistically impossible for some.

"So of course something on a computer or something on a tablet, but still gives them that first person ability to make decisions and see what the consequences or benefits of those decisions are," Peck told CTV News. "I think really drives home the concept of managing land and managing ecosystem and sustainable food systems in a, hopefully, fun way for kids."

 The game, Guardians of the Grasslands, was developed by a BC company that specializes in education technology, but this was their first foray into the educational gaming sphere.

"This is the first time we've built an educational game," said Jonathan Bowers, CEO of Two Story Robot. "It's always nice to be able to create something that brings value to kids in the classroom and makes something a little more approachable, interesting and engaging."

Bowers says the "gamification of education" isn't a new topic, but the ability to use technology makes for a more engaging student experience.

"That has been around for a while," he said. "It's not even really restricted to technology. You can "gamify" education without adding technology to it. What we're doing with the Guardians of the Grasslands game is just a different delivery mechanism for the curriculum."

The game was developed in partnership with Ag in the Classroom.

"Gamification is an incredible way for students to learn because the focus is on having fun and competing," said Sara Shymko, executive director of Ag in the Classroom. "Games like Guardians of the Grasslands provides an opportunity for urban students to connect with agriculture in a unique, engaging way."

The game has versions specific to all provinces including, and west of Ontario.

A French language as well as Maritime versions are in development. Top Stories

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