As a freelance trainer, sometimes I get just the perfect combination of place-process-people that makes an experience truly memorable. It’s a slight variation of the “3 P triangle” sometimes used to evaluate a product or an activity, and it works really well to describe why the week-or-so we spent in Tenerife, in october 2016, was really special.
So first of all, the place: we were there:
in Guia de Isora, a small town in the southern part of Tenerife – Canary Islands, which is part of Spain (technically speaking) but really feels more like north Africa. And quite appropriately so, being off the coast of Morocco in the middle of the Atlantic.
It was my first time in that area and I have to say, it’s impossible not to be impressed there. The Canaries are called “the islands of eternal spring“, and with good reason: never too warm, never too cold, people say it rains three times in a year. The island of Tenerife is a favourite holiday destination for vacationers escaping cold months from all over Europe (which brings all sorts of problem on society and the environment, but that’s another story), and it’s not hard to understand why.
This time around, I was invited together with Bara to take part as trainers to “Green Gaming“, a course on how to design games as activities for environmental education. The project was co-funded by the European Erasmus+ programme and was organised by the local association Isla CreActiva. Thank you for the fantastic work in hosting us, guys!
The topics were engaging and fun. I am more and more motivated to use “games” (broadly speaking) as part of… well, just about everything I do. And I mean professionally. After all, it’s my life passion, is the thing I spend the most time with, and it’s probably the one topic on which I can really say I am an expert. Forget everything else, I am an expert of games!
Why not to use this lifetime qualification for some good purposes then? In this case, it was applied to environmental education.
Here we are playing “stepping stones” to illustrate how life arrived to the Canary Islands some 6000 years BC, for example.
Which of course is also great as an opportunity for team building.
Inspired, active and dynamic. People were all motivated to do their job, and had a genuine interest in learning and working on the topics. Many were true activists in one for or another. It was a pleasure to meet all of them, and the energy they gave to the programme was really amazing.
So we worked a bit to define motivation,
And then we jumped into the main topics of the course. The first was “Games” – how do they work, how to design them, and what can we learn from them – I drew a lot of inspiration from the work I am developing on the topic of Gamification (check for example this cycle of seminars I am doing in Prague), and all that experience and background of course came in really handy.
The second main topic was “Environment”. We had some activities inspired to the “Deep Ecology” philosophy – deep life experiences bring deep questioning, that in turn make deep commitment to emerge. So it all has to start from real life experience. Can games help to create this?
For more information, sources and programme on Deep Ecology, I recommend checking the work at the Schumacher College.
We also had a workshop on how to make our events more environmentally friendly. Or at least, conscious. Being a course for educators and project managers, it was really useful.
As said, an important part of the programme revolved around games. Here we were using “Action Bound“, a mobile phone application really great to develop interactive activities useful to, for example, explore a city environment. For example, to activate a specific task in the game, the group had to find some QR codes hidden in town. Where could they be?
Also, in a good game hidden treasures can be found in places that normally aren’t so attractive.
Of course, we couldn’t miss a good “Board game night”. While videogames are on the forefront and nowadays get the obvious lion’s share in the “games industry” in general, Boardgames are really on the rise, because of their mix of social interaction, hands-on approach, immediate access, and endless opportunities to express creativity. In general, they can help creating a very healthy environment and a great opportunity to spend time with friends.
That’s why with just a few touches and in the right hands, a gaming night can become a rich and compelling educational activity.
So we got to the core part of the programme, that consisted in developing educational games for a youth event that would be organised by the Municipality during the week. I have to say, everybody got into the task with all their energy and commitment, it was actually hard to stop the teams once they started their process.
Of course, not all the team processes were smooth and without accidents, and in such a short time who would expect otherwise? But teamwork is also about overcoming conflicts, having to take challenging decisions in a short time, making mistakes and having to live with it.
So it was all good learning, guys. Even the
people elements that you hated. Well done!
The day of the event was upon us, and the Municipality of Guia de Isora was ready to display all its resources to welcome us (more likely, the local youth).
It was an event on “alternative fun”: to propose local youngsters ideas for healthy, sustainable and social things to do to have fun with friends. For our group it was an honour, and a real pleasure to be involved in the event. And it was a very good element in our training course: our group was part of something bigger, and involved in the life of the local community.
This is an aspect that sometimes is not really present in international youth work. It was a real quality element.
Our teams took the challenge like pros. Each of the four project teams developed a complete game (we even had the luxury of having a playtesting round, before the actual event started), and we proposed the games to the kids and teenagers who took part in the event. Great participation! It was really great to just walk around and enjoy the atmosphere, and all the little things that were happening at the same time.
Well done, teams!
Besides that, nature and environment were the other founding pillar of the course. We explored the topics with a number of experiential activities and two memorable hikes.
For the first one, we had a version of the “Earth Walk” – an activity which combines a walk in a natural area with a storytelling experience about the story of planet Earth, how it developed, on to the appearance of life, to end with our present days.
We started with the formation of Earth, 4 and a half billion years ago, and each step we took equaled approximately to one million years.
At specific times we would stop to introduce and discuss relevant episodes, such as the beginning of a new era, the beginning of a life explosion, the formation of Pangea or a mass extinction.
If the life-span of Earth were an actual 24-hours day, the human presence on the planet would begin at the last minute. An activity like the Earth Walk helps to illustrate this in the most effective way, to get a wider point of view on science, and to break a bit of the homo-centric attitude that we inevitably tend to carry with us. A good article I use as a source of information is here. I really recommend “Wait but Why” in general.
Of course, being in a magnificent natural place with breath-taking views at every turn, also helped a lot with the overall feeling of awesomeness.
At the end of the week, we summed up the course experience with a challenging hike on the Masca trail. Starting from a location situated at the top of the island (with another awesome view),
we learned about the origins of the trail,
before we headed off right into it. All in all, it was a hike about 6 hours long, across some impressive and wonderful natural settings. It helped that it was mostly downhill – but some parts were challenging nevertheless for those of us who are not hardcore hikers (like the yours truly, here).
The experience made us discover how diverse and unique the landscape of Tenerife can be. David would tell us stories and facts at every stop. Tenerife is a volcanic island, which reminded me of the Vesuvius area where I grew up, with a tropical climate. In fact, at times it felt exactly as we were walking across a tropical forest. Maybe because we were.
It was a beautiful adventure day, of deep connection with the nature of the place. Muscles were sore at the end, but the minds (and spirit) were feeling great.
During the walk, we also got to learn about the local Bomberos (firefighters) – which of course given the extremely challenging nature of the place have no other option than to be on foot.
Yes, if there is an accident somewhere on the trail, helicopter rescue is the first option, but failing that the only way to really reach some of the most challenging places is on foot. It’s not uncommon (in fact, it happened to us) to meet a team of these heroic guys running up and down hill to perform their duties.
Better to think twice, next time as a tourist we put ourselves in unnecessary trouble. Things may have consequences, in such harsh conditions.
The hard work paid off, and we were all rewarded with a beautiful boat trip – no dolphins were there to be seen that day, unfortunately – which took us back to base camp.
In conclusion, a memorable experience, solid programme and topics, lots of games, unforgettable locations and an inspired and motivated group to work with. Would you like to develop project ideas like this, or maybe a direct follow up to this course? Contact us, we will be delighted to support you in every possible way.
Thank you very much and hasta pronto!