New iPad App Teaches Children about Sustainability with Interactive Stories

05/31/2012 08:08 PM

Given humanity’s increasing demands on Earth’s resources, it’s never too early to start teaching the next generation lessons about sustainability and our Ecological Footprint.

One of most effective ways to learn is through story. A brother and sister team, Cecilia and Gyula Simonyi, have created Children of the Elements, a series of illustrated interactive stories for the iPad. They envision the app as a tool for parents to tackle the complex subject with their children. Cecilia and Gyula have worked with their father, who is the founder and President of the BOCS Foundation in Hungary, a Global Footprint Network partner organization.

Children of the Element is an educational app, hand-painted on 40 screens and presented in English and Hungarian. The app provokes thinking systematically about sustainability by exploring food, transportation, energy, technology, consumption, population and related issues, and weaving them into stories that show their interconnectedness.

Cecilia and Gyula have launched a campaign on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to raise funds to fully develop the series and reach a wider audience. While aimed for children ages 8 years and older, the stories are no doubt entertaining and edifying for adults as well. It follows four young children as they explore their world, giving readers an opportunity to make decisions for each character. Each episode addresses a different sustainability topic. Funds raised through the Kickstarter campaign will be used for a programmer, music, and special-effects.

“Our goal is to introduce the true face of sustainability, the complexity, the far-reaching impacts and reactions, and offer this in a format understandable and enjoyable by children,” says Gyula, the project manager. “With this series we hope to trigger real understanding, rather than oversimplifying (with) messages like ‘don’t litter.’ Our goal is to stimulate questions, generate discussion and inspire change in choices our readers make.

“Being a mother, I feel the most important knowledge I can give my child is how to live in harmony with our planet,” says Cecilia, author and illustrator of the stories, and mother of a 4-year-old. “Children growing up today are going to face all the challenges our generation have left behind for them to solve.”

Kickstarter allows backers to pledge various amounts to support the creative projects of their choice. If the project reaches its pledge goal by the end of the funding period, the pledges are collected and sent to the project team.  However, if the full amount is not raised by the deadline, no money changes hands.  On Kickstarter, backers are not only donating money to a project that inspires them, but their pledge is honored with special gifts the project creator offers.

To watch the campaign video and help make the full Children of the Elements series happen, visit their Kickstarter page.  And stay up to date by visiting their Facebook page and Cecilia’s blog, which has new illustrations.

Editors update (July 3, 2012): The Kickstarter campaign is over, but the project is not. Follow the progress on the Children of the Elements blog.


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