The World Climate role-play simulation can work for kids as young as 7-8 years old.
We’ve done it – and found that they love the drama of negotiating, the visual delight of graph lines changing in C-ROADS, and the solutions-oriented approach to learning about climate change.
Here are some suggestions about how to adapt the game to fit participants aged 7-13 or so:
- Explain climate change and the United Nations, as briefly as possible. In the set-up for the game, before I arrived in role, I helped the kids understand the basics of climate change and the UN, particularly its membership and goals. This built up to me announcing: “In a few minutes, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is going to walk through that door!”
- Emphasize individual people. When explaining the roles they would play, I assigned kids to play specific people. For example, in the “Developed Countries” group, I pointed out Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron, and Angela Merkel. In “Developing A”, I emphasized Narenda Modi of India and Xi Jinping of China (all for 2018-era leadership).
- No PowerPoint. The only image I displayed was the three-region version of C-ROADS.
- Keep the time frame short. 30-60 minutes, including debrief. Round one with each team caucusing and then giving a speech. Round two after negotiating (“Walk over there and tell them what you think they should do!” – note, it can get loud). Maybe round three and four by calling out to teams and asking if they have changed their pledges. It’s best to have a fairly small group to be able to manage them all – we had 15.
- Believe in their ability to understand graphs. Many kids seemed to connect their team’s action to the graphs. For example, they saw that Developing A’s emissions in green started low, increased fast, and then fell. They loved watching lines change as a result of their pledges.
- Focus the game on the timing of action. Pledges were simply the year of peaking emissions – e.g., 2050, 2070, 2030, 2018. I automatically added a two-year delay and subsequent reduction of ~3% per year.
- Anchor timing to events in their lives. Pointing to the x-axis of the graph in C-ROADS, I asked them, “when will you take action? A. now, B. when you are in high school (2025), C. when you are your parents’ age (~2045) or D. when you are your grandparents’ age (~2075)?”
- Use candy as a proxy for money. Kids understand fairness, so drawing out inequity gets their attention. Don’t leave out this feature. I (quite visibly) gave ten M&Ms to the Developed group, leaving them to decide whether to eat or share them. Their decision affected the negotiation significantly.
- Secretly tell Developing B countries to delay. Tell the least wealthy country representatives to delay action until ~2040s – they didn’t cause the problem, others should act first, and likely haven’t received any candies to support their pledges. Otherwise all the kids take action now and there is no negotiation. They can improve their position later.
- Provide concrete actions to help them imagine practical steps and increase the gravity of their pledges. I said, “If you make a pledge, you will need to convince all the people in your countries to take these four actions (and others)”: (and wrote these four on a chalkboard)
- Turn off the lights
- When leaving your house or a room
- Walk or bike
- When you can, as opposed to driving
- Eat vegetables
- As an alternative to meat (less methane – they love hearing about how cows burp and fart greenhouse gases)
- Write to your leaders
- About what government or business should do
- Turn off the lights
- Debrief points
- Review their personal experiences with the four actions. What has worked, what hasn’t, whether they have ever convinced another person to act.
- Summarize these four key take-aways:
- Winning requires global cooperation.
- We will need to take personal action and also push our leaders.
- We must begin action now, not in the future.
- We can do it.
- Hear from each kid about what they would write in their letters to their leaders. Possibly record on a chalkboard.’