Resident Spotlight: SustainED

Feb 22, 2019

In the fall of 2018, Ronni Hayden and Rebecca Fudge rolled the dice and started at The Garage to develop their board game, which aims to teach high school students about the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.The Garage sat down with Ronni to learn how her SustainED work meets play.This interview has been edited and condensed.

What are your goals for SustainED?

Not a lot of US schools talk about climate change or the United Nations goals. We’re trying to find a way to incorporate the board game into the Next Generation Science Standards so we can get it into classrooms and get teens talking about the goals, thinking about the ways they can work in their community and be empowered to know that change is possible. Making big change by 2030 isn’t as impossible as it sounds.

How does the game work?

Each player is a made-up country, and they’re acting as the UN delegate. They’re trying to gain progress toward each of the 17 goals. You roll a dice and you move around the board, and different tiles code to different colored cards that you draw.There’s solution cards, which will teach you about a real solution that’s been implemented toward that goal. You can trade with other countries, which really emphasizes the importance of collaboration in the real world. There’s disaster cards, which show how island nations or nations that are impoverished are more affected by climate change. There are cards where you can come up with your own rule that you want your country to implement, which helps students think critically about what each of the goals mean.As you go around the board, you’re gaining progress towards the goals, learning about collaboration and disasters and working toward passing different checkpoints by the time you reach 2030, which is the end of the board.

What’s been the reaction from students who play the game?

This summer, we tested it with Northwestern undergrads on campus, as well as grad students. Of course we want [the game] to be educational, but we also want it to be fun. We were really excited to see how into the game people got. [When we play] with younger teens, initially they’re nervous, but as they progress and learn more, they become more empowered to come up with their own solutions. We’ve been really happy with how competitive people get in the game, and also how much it seems that they enjoy learning.

Why is this issue important to you?

These are really topical issues. We’re running out of time. Whether or not you’re interested in studying science or going into these fields, [climate change] is still going to affect us. It already has. We’re hopeful this [game] is one way for people to learn about these [UN] goals.

How has The Garage helped?

The Garage has been really helpful. Our mentor, Mark Desky, really keeps us accountable and working towards the things that we want to do every week. We wouldn’t have found him without The Garage.Having so many students around working on entrepreneurship has been really great. It can be really overwhelming, but when you look around and see all of these other students who are also choosing to allot their time this way, it’s really inspiring.Megan Lebowitz is a freshman majoring in journalism. She is a reporter for Northwestern News Network and loves storytelling in all forms. She is from Cleveland, Ohio.

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