I think a lot about attending to the joy of climate action and sustainability work. It's not that I don't understand that climate change is already impacting all of us (and impacting traditionally marginalized groups much more than others). Indeed, I think we're in for some perilous decades for the foreseeable future.
Attending to our joy is not a denial of pain and suffering but rather it's a recognition of the part of the human spirit that makes life worth living. Moreover, the field of positive psychology suggests that fostering pleasant emotions, like joy and playfulness, helps us be more creative and open to others which builds social and mental resources we can draw upon to solve problems now and in the future. Sounds pretty good considering we're in desperate need of creativity, connection and resilience given the climate crisis we face.
I've tried a number of things to help others tap into a state of joy in the service of climate action. One way that has been particularly fun has been the Green Goose Chase.
The Green Goose Chase uses the GooseChase platform* (huge shoutout to the team at GooseChase) to run a week-long community-wide scavenger hunt whereby teams use their phones to text in answers, take photos and videos, or head to specific locations in order to complete a series of missions and earn points.
My colleague at the Sustainability Institute and I developed the Green Goose Chase in 2021 as a way to build some interactivity into the annual La Crosse (WI) Earth Fair which, like most other COVID-19 era programming, shifted to a virtual format. Our goals were to help participants learn about the Good Life Goals (an emoji-cized version of the UN Sustainable Development Goals), experience local sustainability efforts while exploring their communities, and build community by having fun together.
For this year's Green Goose Chase we created over 40 missions that waddled the gamut from using the local Drift Bikeshare program to creating grocery lists and meal plans to exploring local trails and parks to watching Project Drawdown's Climate 101 videos. One of my favorite missions had participants creating sidewalk chalk art that spread joy and encouragement within their neighborhoods.
We knew we were on to something after 2021, but the growth in participation and the creativity and humor on display in 2022 blew us out of the honkin' water.
This year, 72 teams submitted nearly 1000 posts to the game feed. And of course, teams could see, laugh with, and be inspired by each other's posts. New this year we hosted a team meet and greet (honk and flap?) celebration on the last day of the event culminating with the Eggy Awards - egg trophies given out to different teams for various accomplishments.
"This was the most fun we have had in a long time, and we will likely be talking about it for many years to come...It was really cool and inspiring to see what other participants were posting, too! We learned, we played, and we explored all together." - 2022 Green Goose Chase participant
What makes the Green Goose Chase particularly playful is that it taps into Choice, Wonder, and Delight - the three key ingredients to playful pedagogy. Teams are given agency to choose which missions to complete and in many cases how to complete them. Teams are asked to explore, to create, and to learn more. Finally, teams are encouraged to revel in delight through by laughing, being silly, and connecting to each other and the world.
On top of opportunities for choice, wonder, and delight, we know that true play is inviting and inclusive. Teams are made up of all sorts of people--friends, family members, co-workers and our missions encourage all different ages to be able to play. One of the great things is that teammates didn't need to migrate to the upper Midwest to participate. While the vast majority of participants were local, we did have several team members participating from the East Coast, West Coast, and places in between.
Of course the Green Goose Chase likely isn't producing a cohort of climate crusaders, but that isn't the point. Based on our increasing engagement numbers, the number of returning teams, and the feedback we get from participants, I'm confident that through joy and playfulness we're creating more inspired and aware community members with the potential to be engaged in climate action for the long-term.
Learn more about our 2022 Green Goose Chase.
Interested in learning more or developing your own Climate Change related goose chase? I'm happy to help you think through your ideas....just give me a honk.
* I am not being paid or otherwise compensated by GooseChase to endorse their product.