Teaching climate issues through gameplay is gaining momentum in Brazil

  • The Climate Fresk workshop, known in Brazil as Climate Mural, is an educational model created in France and replicated in more than 50 countries to disseminate scientific climate knowledge in an interactive setting.
  • Its main educational tool is a deck of cards that allows participants to understand the cause and effect dynamics involved in climate change.
  • The workshop is usually held at universities, high schools and government facilities, but a growing number of companies have asked to hold workshops to train their employees on climate issues.
  • In just three years, the global Climate Fresk initiative has trained 10,000 workshop leaders and reached more than 300,000 participants around the world.

Agriculture, fossil fuels, deforestation, rising temperatures, greenhouse gas emissions, forest fires, floods, droughts. These are just some of the factors and consequences involved in the complex cause and effect dynamics of the climate crisis, according to reports of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Due to the complexity of the subject, many doubts have arisen: What is the order of the factors and how many others are there? How is it possible to solve the problem? Why the urgency?

These are some of the questions the Climate Fresk workshop sought to answer. Using a set of 42 cards, each representing a climate change factor, workshop participants are led to discover the real relationship between causes and consequences.

This teaching model, and the organization behind it, was originally called The Climate Fresco (climatic fresco, or mural, in French), were created in 2018 by Cédric Ringenbach, a French teacher who tested the game with his students, based on the findings of the IPCC.

In just three years, the game has been translated into around 30 languages, and now the workshop is replicated by volunteers in over 50 countries, including Brazil, where it is known as the Climate Mural. The aim is to gradually bring this scientific knowledge to more people and show that everyone plays a role in both causing and solving the climate crisis, explains Lucas Romao, environmental engineer and l one of the leaders of Climate Mural in Brazil.

Educate individual and collective minds

The workshop lasts approximately three hours on average and is divided into three stages. The first stage is reflective, during which participants play cards and gain an overview of climate science. Then comes the creation stage, which consists of drawing the links between the maps to increase the participants’ ability to visualize the causes and consequences of climate change.

“This step has a strong impact,” says Romao. This is when participants realize that the consequences are very serious and go beyond environmental impacts, such as health problems, hunger and poverty, among others. These consequences are already affecting billions of people around the world, as the latest IPCC report. After the sensitization stage comes the stage where the possible solutions are discussed at the individual, collective or sectoral levels.

According to Fernanda Tibério, professor at the Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of São Paulo and host of Climate Mural, this model of climate education is very instructive because it allows a better understanding of a very complex subject. This is also good in the Brazilian context, as there are currently few teachers with a background in climate science in the country.

Another advantage of the workshop is that it allows participants during the debate phase to “contribute collectively to their knowledge” on “what type of individual actions are possible and what collective actions are necessary”, explains Tibério. This pursuit of collective intelligence attracted even Brazilians who know the subject to participate in the workshops.

“What drove me was the desire to broaden my socio-environmental knowledge and strengthen my network of people who fight for the same cause”, explains Jaqueline Cortes, student in public relations at the University of São Paulo and ambassador for an environmental NGO. Folhas Que Salvam, who participated in a workshop in 2021 as part of the Journeys for the Climate program. “I had the chance to meet people from different states and backgrounds, who added a lot to my vision.”

Climate travel is one of the programs offered by the Climate Reality Project Brazil, part of a global organization founded by former US Vice President Al Gore, which uses workshops as an educational tool to mobilize against the climate crisis.

“There is a huge diversity of backgrounds among the people who attend [the workshop through] the Journeys,” says Renata Moraes, Educator and Regional Coordinator for the organization. “We have students from all Brazilian states, people with different levels of education and different generations. Our youngest participant was 14 and the oldest was 81. We encourage exchanges between these people because we understand that it has a lot of value.

Climate Mural workshops are typically in-person events, taking place at educational institutions, businesses, or government facilities. But online versions are sometimes offered. Image courtesy of Climate Fresco.

Train professionals and civil servants

In Brazil, workshops are held mainly in universities, high schools and other educational institutions. A growing number of companies in the country have also applied to host a workshop, citing the need to train their employees on climate issues. Environmental consultancy firm I Care & Consult Brasil, for example, offers the workshop to every new employee, Romao says.

Moraes also notes this tendency. “We get requests from companies that want climate training at multiple levels of management,” she says. It remains to be seen if companies will actually put into practice the lessons learned during the workshop and if they will commit to ambitious climate objectives, in line with the Paris Agreement.

Some professionals attended the workshop on their own initiative, to bring knowledge back to their workplace. Tassia Bozza, for example, says she attended a workshop to “learn about other methodologies for studying how climate change affects lives and is interconnected with distant factors”, so that she can integrate this knowledge into their architectural and urban planning work.

The public sector, however, has not yet shown much interest in this model of climate education. the federal government’s new director of education and environmental citizenship, Cristiane Freitas, for example, has never worked in education or the environment. His appointment in March prompted more than 60 organizations to publish a joint statement in protest, on the grounds that she is not qualified for the position.

Although some officials from local governments and federal and state environmental agencies have attended the workshops, they still represent only a minority of participants. To address this issue, facilitators in Brazil and other countries have organized to deliver the workshops directly to government officials through public policy conferences.

According to Romao, more than 200 animators from different countries came to COP26, the UN climate summit in Glasgow last November, to bring the workshops to the attention of politicians and civil servants. Now they are organizing to bring them to Rio+30, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Sustainable Development, to be held this year in Rio de Janeiro. (No date has yet been set for the event.)

“Of course, we won’t be able to change everything in three hours, but the idea [of the workshop] is to plant a seed in people’s minds,” says Romao. “We see knowledge and information exchange as the first step towards effective climate action – both individual and collective.”

Reach a million people

The Climate Fresk initiative has grown rapidly. In just three years, from 2018 to 2021, it has branched out worldwide and has to date trained around 10,000 workshop leaders and reached over 300,000 participants. In Brazil, there are about 70 facilitators spread across the country and at least 2,000 people have participated in workshops.

According to Romao, the number of participants has doubled every five months. He says the secret is to present a playful model of fun and interactive education, in addition to having a decentralized structure so that anyone who has already participated in a workshop can become a facilitator.

The international Climate Fresk team aims to reach one million workshop participants by the end of this year. For Romao, the goal is not only to educate as many Brazilians as possible, but also to bring knowledge about climate science to various decision makers and places across the country.

“The better we understand the problems, the more likely we are to understand our role in collective spaces of change”, explains Tibério, the facilitator and teacher.

The newest online workshop for Brazilian participants it was april 22coinciding with Earth Day.

Banner image of a Climate Mural workshop, courtesy of Climate Mural.

This story was reported by the Brazilian Mongabay team and first published here on our Brazil website April 12, 2022.

Teresa H. Sadler