An innovation experiment by the City of Helsinki and the Korkeasaari Zoo produced a learning game called Sademetsän henki (Spirit of the Rainforest) for the Amazonia house. The interactive game is designed for schoolchildren and other visitors to Korkeasaari Zoo to enrich the visit. With immersive content, the narrative game diversifies the visitor experience and illustrates the layered nature and species diversity of rainforests. The visual user experience brings rainforests closer to Korkeasaari Zoo visitors.
Korkeasaari Zoo ventured to join the experiment to co-creation new technologies for the zoo in collaboration with the visitors. Located in the Amazonia House, the designing of the game began in workshops where primary school pupils came up with ideas for the game’s plot, characters, functionalities and learning content. A multidisciplinary working group then continued the design and conceptualisation based on the ideas. The group consisted of experts and teachers from Korkeasaari Zoo, virtual reality studio ZOAN, the Economic Development Department and the Education Division.
Virtual reality studio ZOAN joined in the innovation challenge, built around the idea of co-creation, with an open mind.
“This was a new kind of project for us, missing the traditional client/implementer set-up. The decisions were taken together and with a particularly keen ear to the views of the end-users,” says Karolina Norteva, Producer at ZOAN.
The pupils tested different versions of the game and provided valuable feedback on the content and user experience.
“The game is built around educational rainforest content and AR models that support learning, a good story and visual expression. They were achieved through co-creation,” says pedagogical expert Jukka Rauvola from JukEDU, who participated in developing the game.
Knowledge and experience through experiments
The city’s experiments shake up traditional ways of doing things. It requires an open mind. The experiments and the related processes also provide experience and produce new knowledge.
“The experiments always have a goal, but the result is unknown. In the case of this experiment, it is a great learning game. However, the most valuable thing here is the process, from which all members of the ecosystem have certainly learned a lot both in terms of operating methods and the use of new technologies,” says Marjo Kenttälä from the Helsinki City Executive Office’s Economic Development Department.
The experiment increased Korkeasaari Zoo’s expertise in co-creation and new technologies.
“The experiment provided information on what kind of expertise and workload a co-creation project requires. We also got an idea of the opportunities augmented and virtual reality technologies, or AR and VR, offer in presenting different things and themes,” explain Tero Kirjosalo and Marjo Priha, Environmental Educators at Korkeasaari Zoo.
“The knowledge of technical requirements will be important in the future. For example, we will use the lessons from this process in designing Korkeasaari Zoo’s new rainforest hall,” says Aki Kotkas, Graphic Designer at Korkeasaari Zoo.
Pupil participation and entrepreneurship education
Sademetsän henki will surely remain a memorable experience in the minds of the pupils who participated in creating it, not only because they came up with the name of the game and the animals and characters in it but also because of the powerful and genuine experience of participation throughout the process.
“This was pupil participation at its best: a real-world project where the pupils’ ideas ended up in the final product. They got experience from various working life roles, such as developer, product tester and assessor. They genuinely felt that what they do and think matters,” explain teachers Teemu Einola, Topi Perälä and Teppo Manninen, who were involved in the development work.
“These processes are also a good way for schools to implement entrepreneurship education,” adds Tommi Tiittala, Pedagogical Specialist at Education Division, and continues: “With the experiments, the pupils gain an understanding of how society works and experience of various product development processes, occupational groups and the skills required in working life.”
Ready to play
Sademetsän henki is a browser-based learning game that can be played on a mobile device in Korkeasaari Zoo. It uses immersive content to explore rainforests’ diverse species, layers, threats and protection. The game is built around the ‘spirit of the rainforest’ and its two animal friends. By learning more about the rainforest, the player can invigorate the spirit to better continue its work as the protector of the rainforest. The game is free of charge for zoo visitors. It is available in Finnish.
The experiment also came up with an idea for wider use of the game in Finnish schools to teach pupils about rainforests. Through the experiment, the accessibility of the interesting and experiential learning environment in Korkeasaari Zoo is now better than ever!