Students across the country are learning about climate change in senior high school years, as laid out in the Australian curriculum.
But according to researchers at the Australian National University, waiting until students are 16 is too late.
ANU science researcher Inez Harker-Schuch is developing an interactive online game called CO2peration, for children aged 12 to 14 to learn about climate science.
The game challenges players to go on fact-finding missions to collect samples and data to work out why Earth has a water-rich surface.
It is a scientific mystery that follows some of the pathways that led scientists to realise Earth’s climate was changing.
According to Ms Harker-Schuch, children undergo a rapid developmental change at around the age of 12.
“They start to look at executive functions and complex problems in different ways,” she said.
“This is what we call abstract reasoning. It happens around the age of 11 for girls and 12 for boys.”
Just the science
Ms Harker-Schuch said adolescents as young as 12 deserved the power of knowledge to help them process complex issues.
“I’m not interested in changing their opinion or giving them an opinion — I’m just interested in teaching the science,” she said.
“Often in school, you’ll have teachers who will give instruction in climate change and they might discuss things that are frightening.”
With a focus on removing “noise and emotional messes”, Ms Harker-Schuch and her research team hope to capture students’ interest.
“As an environmental educator, I worked out very early on that climate change is a very complex thing to explain to students,” she said.
As part of the game, players explore each rocky planet in the solar system.
The 3D game will allow players to zoom in and out on space maps and look closely at the make-up of molecules.
“We need to use visualisation to teach climate science,” Ms Harker-Schuch said.
“Kids are on their devices so much of the time, so we wanted to take those devices and make them useful.”
The game is currently undergoing testing in a selection of schools in Europe and Australia, before the expected public release in May.
Ms Harker-Schuch has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project, which runs until November 9.