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ASU students gamify sustainability education with Kahoot! quizzes

Elementary school students play online Kahoot! games to learn about sustainability.

April 22, 2019

As part of Arizona State University’s efforts to advance sustainability education for K–12 students, a faculty-led student group created a suite of Kahoot! games to teach sustainability concepts. Kahoot! is a widely used platform to play fun, educational games called “kahoots” that are popular in classrooms and other group settings.

Through a new capstone workshop called “Innovation in Science Communication,” three undergraduate School of Sustainability students created nine quizzes for a new Kahoot! campaign, ASU Sustainable Futures. Topics include designing for our future, environment, sustainable food, social justice and energy. The students were responsible for developing the content and then demoing the kahoots in several middle school classes.

“This was a wonderful experience for me, and I would definitely do it again,” said Silje Beattie, who is set to graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science in sustainability and a minor in applied biological sciences. “My favorite part was finally getting to see all of our hard work go out into the real world when we visited the middle school to present our quizzes. It was a very rewarding project!”

This unique workshop is led by Stephanie Pfirman, a senior sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and a professor in the School of Sustainability. Pfirman said she wanted to create a partnership between ASU and Kahoot! because of her work with the company last year as a faculty member at Columbia University. Teachers love Kahoot!, she said, because it is free to use, the format can be adapted to different content, and students enjoy learning through the games.

“I was so excited about the reach of the platform — with more than 50% of U.S. schoolchildren using a kahoot monthly — that I contacted Kahoot! EDU's general manager, Craig Narveson, and we decided to partner on a new campaign to coincide with Earth Day 2019,” Pfirman said, adding that Christopher Boone, dean of the School of Sustainability, was happy to support the capstone workshop because its benefits extend far beyond the walls of ASU.

Narveson said that Kahoot! is pleased to partner with ASU students creating kahoots, given the alignment of this student-led approach with one of the company’s core concepts, “learners to leaders.” Leveraging this concept in the classroom, student learners can become leaders through kahoot game creation and subsequent presentation to their peers.

“Numerous career opportunities in the future will emerge from areas related to sustainability, and I’m excited that the kahoots from ASU may spark young students’ curiosity to explore them,” Narveson added.

The ASU Sustainable Futures campaign launched on April 5. As of April 23, the quizzes had reached a total of nearly 300,000 players. Pfirman said the futures theme for the campaign was inspired by and aligned with ASU’s new Global Futures initiative, which aims to strategically plan a sustainable future that ensures human well-being.

Peter Schlosser, one of the world’s leading earth and environmental scientists who is vice president and vice provost of Global FuturesPeter Schlosser is also a distinguished sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. He holds joint appointments as the University Professor of Global Futures in the School of Sustainability, the School of Earth and Space Exploration in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering., said: “It is clear that people are curious about the opportunities and challenges that are lying ahead in their daily lives as well as larger issues such as the habitability of our planet as whole.”

To expand the reach of the Kahoot! campaign, Pfirman partnered with another project at ASU called 24 Hours of Sustainability — an all-day social media event that broadcast on Earth Day through the School of Sustainability's Facebook. This event was a video series designed to reach teachers, students and practitioners with inspiring stories of simple actions to impact a sustainable tomorrow and to achieve the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. 24 Hours of Sustainability was a collaboration between ASU and Wells Fargo and was led by Lara Ferry, a distinguished sustainability scientist in the ASU Wrigley Institute and director of ASU’s School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, where she is also a president’s professor.

During the 24 Hours of Sustainability broadcast, a video about the ASU Sustainable Futures kahoots ran in the “Students Making a Difference” segment, and a different kahoot was featured at the end of every hour so viewers from around the world could play together and see how they ranked. All of the videos and resources shown during the broadcast are available on a new webpage.

Boone said that all of these collaborative, openly shared projects contribute to the larger goal of making sustainability a core part of K–12 education.

“Building a global mindset, but at the same time recognizing that you can do something as an individual, is one of the key things that we need to get across in education for sustainability,” Boone said.

Video: Introduction to Kahoot! as an educational tool, featuring Stephanie Pfirman

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