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40 Aussie schools sign up to sustainability teaching app

By Zach Thompson
Fri 5 Aug 2022

Over 40 schools have signed up to a new online app that helps teachers to engage students in learning about sustainability throughout the curriculum.

Genus offers immersive and real-world missions and came about after co-founder Jon Owen recognised a need to empower the next generation to save the planet while watching a nature documentary with his children.

"My daughters asked me why the climate was changing. I told them many people don't understand, or care enough to help stop it," Owen says.

"I immediately realised that if adults don't get it, what chance do the kids stand?

"There's an eco-anxiety which is very real, and I don't like the thought of this generation growing up worrying about the planet.

"While it starts online, in a fun and engaging app, Genus comes alive in the real world, with 'young agents' sent on real-world missions which have a measurable, positive impact on the planet: the bigger the impact, the quicker they progress.

"Schools across Sydney and Wollongong have been using the app since term two, as students can now learn about sustainability through maths, geography and English lessons.

"Teachers no longer have to choose between planet and curriculum, because we combine the two."

Mr Owen says sustainability should be a priority to teach throughout the curriculum, but because teachers have to meet KPIs for core subjects, like Maths and English, the subject is often sidelined.

"With Genus, students can have their maths lesson while calculating how much money they'd save by switching to a green energy provider, or do the sums on how many kilograms of soft plastic can be saved from landfill by recycling biscuit packets and chocolate wrappers from playground bins," Owen notes.

"Children can learn about soft plastics recycling, how to be more water wise and how to extend the useful life of resources. We take a holistic approach to sustainability, looking at four key pillars: Causes of Climate Change, Waste Reduction, Endangered Species and Threatened Environments.

"It's not a video game, but it is fun because we are gamifying the experience.

"With avatars to personalise, lots of games, quizzes and puzzles, children will feel like they are playing, as they have fun and save the planet.

"Our mission is to develop a generation of young people who think instinctively and act decisively for the planet."

"By developing [a child's] ability to consider the real-world implications for their actions, Genus develops personal responsibility and drives positive behaviour changes and builds real-life skills."

The Lancet recently surveyed 10,000 children and young people aged 16-25 across 10 countries, including Australia.

The results found that 59% of respondents were very or extremely worried about climate change, while 84% were moderately worried.

"Saving the planet has always been seen as hard and boring, until now. Genus is making sustainability fun for young people," Owen adds.

In addition, Genus is working with the EPA on an initiative called 'Love Food, Hate Waste', which teaches students ways to minimise their food waste.

The ed-tech industry is estimated at around AU$2 billion dollars a year.

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