“The Biodiversity Collage” — a fun and collaborative workshop to explore the biodiversity crisis, but leave hopeful and ready to tackle the challenge

My awesome LTH colleague Léa Lévy invited me to a workshop she was doing with some of her colleagues yesterday, where we played a serious game on biodiversity in order to test if it might work as a teaching tool in their context. The game, “The Biodiversity Collage“, is about collaboratively organizing a growing deck of cards on different aspects of biodiversity: what biodiversity depends on, how we as humans make use of it in different ways, how our actions put pressures on the system, and what consequences those pressures ultimately lead to.

For me, playing this game had many different facets. It made me aware of my very limited recollection a lot of stuff that I probably learned about in high school (like what exactly a species is; I vaguely recall having learned about the horse and donkey example now that Léa talked about it…), or how so many of my assumptions are biased towards the ocean playing a super important role (clams being extinguished because of water temperature, the advection of pollutants, …). I also considered completely new lenses to look at the problem, for example that standardization is a huge issue! Not just the shape of cucumbers (that makes sense to standardize from a logistics point of view, but leads to food being wasted for no good reason) or everybody wearing jeans around the world (even though cotton only grows in certain parts of the world, and other fabrics would be a lot more sustainable if grown & produced locally and with fewer toxic substances in the process), but also how we all see the same holiday destinations on Instagram and thus all go for the same experiences, rather than a diversity that would lead to less destruction in a few places that get completely overrun, and how we all eat the same food because it’s the latest health food that we think we need. This was a huge eye-opener for me, but at the same time as being very scary, it also made me see a lot of levers that I hadn’t previously considered. And I think that’s part of the strength of the game: Seeing new connections, and how they contribute to the problem, but also how they can be leveraged as solutions.

Léa has previously worked a lot with a similar game on the climate crisis (and conducted a group project on how to use and modify it in different teaching contexts; article about this being written as we speak…), but at least in our context of a technical faculty, but possibly also more generally, it is very tempting to fall into technical solutions to “fix” the climate crisis, and shy away from discussing the necessary and scary massive changes to life as we know it. One of the advantages of the biodiversity game is that climate change is only one of five drivers of loss of biodiversity — which makes the problem much bigger, but also the discussion of solutions much richer. Also it makes it a lot more obvious that many of the currently discussed technical solutions to the climate crisis might not actually be desirable at all, since they have adverse effect on biodiversity — and we just looked at the consequences of biodiversity loss for the 90 minutes of the game before!

One aspect of the workshop is also the very good way of dealing with the emotions that arise when engaging with the topic: They are explicitly addressed and articulated. Plus the workshop ends with a structured way to brainstorm next steps — a great way to raise participant’s self efficacy! I was very surprised how — after having just discussed my current bad phase of climate anxiety in a meeting yesterday morning — I came out feeling hopeful and ready to tackle the challenges. And I think that’s the huge strength of the game: Creating community to discuss concerns and solutions with, and having those discussions facilitated in a way that leads towards “what is it that I can do personally in different areas of my life”.

So what’s the verdict now for the game as a teaching tool? I would totally encourage everybody to try! I think it’s a great way to show the enormous scope of the problem and help students discover connections, while not overwhelming them emotionally or with the depth of discussions. This could work well in the beginning of a course to motivate later discussions of specific aspects or mechanisms, or also to bring together different expertises after group projects, or just as a stand-alone activity. Also for us as teachers it is totally worth joining such a workshop — I am sure there are new aspects that come up in every iteration of the game, depending on who is joining. And now I want to learn how to become a facilitator myself! :-)

Find out more about The Biodiversity Collage here!

2 thoughts on ““The Biodiversity Collage” — a fun and collaborative workshop to explore the biodiversity crisis, but leave hopeful and ready to tackle the challenge

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