Using games to teach kids the value of nature and philanthropy

Kids are spending more time using tablets and smart phones for learning and entertainment. But hours spent gaming, Tweeting, and playing on Instagram and Facebook, may mean less engagement with nature, potentially making it more difficult for conservation organisations to inspire and influence the next generation of donors and decision makers.

Given the state of the world’s environment, that is a troubling thought, raising questions like how will conservation groups bridge the gap between the increasingly digital world and the natural one? And where will the conservation and nature philanthropists of 2050 come from? 

A new initiative, called Junior Explorers, takes aim at those questions through an immersive educational gaming platform that inspires kids to learn about nature and get into the habitat of supporting conservation efforts. 

“Our program teaches and connects kids to ecosystems and species in a way that they can relate to and that parents feel good about,” Anurag Agarwal, the founder and CEO of Junior Explorers, told mongabay.com. 

Junior Explorers is structured around a series of “missions” that take users to different ecosystems around the planet where they learn about wildlife, ecology, and environmental issues.

There are also offline components, but what is particularly novel is the project’s “Give Back” function, which requires kids to choose an organization to support using points accumulated during the mission. Each month those points are turned into actual cash that is then donated to organizations doing real conservation work in the field.

“We figured out a way to combine gaming with giving back, building a new generation of philanthropists, something we are very excited about and proud to include,” Agarwal explained.

“We allow NGOs to leverage Junior Explorers as an open source platform to fundraise in a new way, reaching a new audience and it also allows parent and consumers to give kids the gift of exploration while supporting conservation.” 

Junior Explorers also offers NGOs opportunities to fundraise by getting their supporters to subscribe. [Disclosure: Mongabay.org has signed up for the program]. 

“Junior Explorers is a social enterprise that is committed to supporting conservation and it is a big part of who we are as a company,” he said. “We fulfill our social mission through our ‘Mission Give Back’ program and donate a percentage of our profits back to organizations who are on the front lines of conservation. Junior Explorers donates $10 per sign up to a partnering NGO giving back a percentage of our profits to conservation.” 

Read more here as Agarwal talked about Junior Explorers and more during a November 2014 interview with Mongabay.

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