Teaching Sustainability in a virtual world

Since 2010 I own Techland, a virtual world based on the Opensimulator 3D platform, devoted to STEM subjects and targeted to K6-K8 degree students (www.virtualscience.it). This virtual learning environment can be accessed by users as avatars, using a specific app called viewer.

When I started my phD in Geoscience Education, I added  a “Sustainability section” to Techland,  to support schools in their Civic Education curricula and to evaluate the effectiveness of virtual worlds in teaching sustainability.

This section consists of a group of  islands: “Sustainability Hub” is the “landing” islands, where students have a first approach to Agenda 2030 and explore the different  aspects of sustainability. Then, in other islands, they can go into detail about topics such as Resources, Energy, Waste Management and Urban Sustainability. In every area, students can find information, web resources and interactive 3D learning objects. These objects represent a 3D visualization of situations and abstract concepts. When clicked they perform animations and deliver information about different topics.

At Sustainability Hub there are different sections devoted to Climate change, loss of biodiversity, over-exploitation of resources, circular economy, sustainability indicators and Agenda 2030.

I experimented with the “Sustainability Hub” island in 2020 and 2021 during the pandemic lockdown, so K6-K9 students accessed the island from home. it was very important, because. This activity helps them to feel closer to their classmates, making practical activities together.

This year another activity was carried on with students of IIS “F. Filelfo” of Tolentino, Italy (March – April 2022). The activity was targeted to about 60 K9 students involving two teachers, Claudio Mariotti and Rosa Carletta.

Two different meetings were carried out. In the first meeting students learnt how to move and interact in the world and were informed about the objectives of the project, the map of the island, the various types of items and the tasks to be carried out.

In the second meeting they were free to explore the educational paths for 2 hours and were involved in various activities, such as interacting with 3D objects and graphs, consulting information, performing online games. They were also involved in various activities such as the water footprint of food, or the carbon footprint of typical daily routines (eat, wash clothes, use a smartphone and so on). At the end of each educational path students carried out interactive quizzes to test their knowledge.

This was an engaging way to learn about sustainability and acquire digital competences. I used a gamification approach. Resources are in the Italian language. Teachers are welcome to visit Techland and use it for their lessons. Just e-mail me to have a personal avatar for free (michelina.occhioni@gmail.com).

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About Michelina Occhioni

I have a degree in Industrial Chemistry and a master in Biology. I've been a teacher of math and science (K6-K8 degree) since 2001. At the moment I am a pHD student in Geoscience Education at the university of Camerino (Italy). My fields of interest are virtual world, coding and science laboratory activities. Previously I worked for 13 years as a chemical laboratory specialist in a petroleum plant. I am a Scientix Ambassador.

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