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Teaching Sustainability Through STEM Games

Sustainability and environmental conservation are pressing global issues that can be difficult and stressful to approach in the classroom. As educational game developers, we have a unique opportunity to create engaging tools that make these complex topics accessible and inspiring for learners of all ages. By harnessing the power of play, STEM games can simulate real-world systems, foster critical thinking skills, and motivate students to take action toward a more sustainable future.

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Why Games?

According to Joey Lee, lecturer and director of the Games Research Lab at Teachers College, Columbia University, “Games can be a powerful way to teach, persuade, or raise awareness about important topics that young people should care about, such as social justice or civic issues.” As we’ve covered before on the blog, games uniquely simulate real-world systems and scenarios, allowing students to explore cause-and-effect relationships and experiment with different strategies in a safe, low-stakes environment

But games aren’t just about systems thinking – they’re also incredibly effective at fostering 21st-century skills essential for tackling sustainability and environmental challenges. Games can encourage collaboration and communication as students work together to achieve a common goal, promote critical thinking and problem-solving as players navigate obstacles and make decisions, and spark creativity and innovation, inspiring students to think outside the box and come up with novel solutions to real-world problems.

Why STEM? Building STEM Literacy for Future Action

As we just established, video games are useful tools for learning, but they are especially useful for STEM learning. Many schools worldwide have bolstered their STEM programs with game-based learning, and for good reason. For example, take Broward County Public Schools, the sixth-largest school district in the United States that serves a diverse student body of over 250,000 students across 326 schools and education centers. The district launched an interdisciplinary K-12 STEM+CS (Computer Science) program in 2013 to create equitable opportunities for skill-building and STEM education.

One key tool in the district’s STEM+CS program is Minecraft Education. As Lisa Milenkovic explains in her EdSurge article, “The Impact of Inclusive STEM Education,”  “Minecraft Education was a critical tool for achieving our goals of building essential skills and integrating STEM across all disciplines.” The platform provides students with a familiar environment to create, code, and collaborate while learning through standards-aligned lessons.

The program also includes citizen science, service learning, environmental stewardship, applications across all disciplines, and STEM challenges tied to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. By focusing on STEM literacy, technological literacy, environmental literacy, and STEMpathy (using STEM and computer science for social good), Broward County Public Schools is preparing its students to become future-ready graduates with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in a technological future and solve the challenges of the future (including the ones related to the climate!).

The example of Broward County Public Schools’ STEM+CS program highlights the immense potential of STEM games in fostering sustainability education. By integrating platforms like Minecraft Education into their curriculum, the district has created a dynamic learning environment that engages students in exploring complex environmental issues while developing crucial 21st-century skills.

This is just one of many instances where STEM games have proven to be invaluable tools for teaching sustainability. The hands-on, interactive nature of these games allows students to explore cause-and-effect relationships, experiment with different strategies, and develop a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of social, economic, and environmental systems. Moreover, by presenting real-world challenges in a fun and engaging format, STEM games can inspire students to take action and become stewards of our planet.

Examples of STEM Games for Sustainability Education

From tabletop to digital, these STEM games are a great way to teach students about sustainability, climate change, and more. Here are a few examples of games making a big impact in classrooms and beyond!


Co-designed by the aforementioned Joey Lee, along with Arctic researcher Dr. Stephanie Pfirman, this multiplayer tabletop card game teaches players about climate change through values of empathy and stewardship. The game is designed to teach science aligned with Next Generation Science Standards, with the goal of students learning about real scientific phenomena and processes while having fun.


This survival game challenges players to collaborate to build a sustainable civilization from scratch. As they gather resources, craft tools, and construct buildings, players must balance their own needs with the ecosystem’s health, making tough choices about resource management, pollution, and conservation.

World Rescue

Developed by ZU Digital with support from UNESCO, this mobile game puts players in the role of a superhero tasked with solving global challenges like climate change, deforestation, and pollution. By completing mini-games and quizzes, players learn about the Sustainable Development Goals and discover ways to take action in their communities.


Okay, so our robot-building sandbox game may not scream “sustainability” at first glance, but hear us out – by designing and testing their own machines, players of RoboCo develop a deep understanding of engineering principles and problem-solving strategies that are critical for addressing sustainability challenges. Plus, our game’s open-ended nature encourages experimentation and creative thinking!

These are just a few examples – countless other STEM games touch on sustainability themes, from city-building sims to nature-based puzzlers to virtual lab experiments. The key is finding games that align with your learning objectives and provide rich opportunities for exploration, discussion, and reflection.

At Filament, we’re passionate about creating games that make a difference – and we believe that sustainability education is one of the most important areas where games can have an impact. If you’re looking to create a custom STEM game to teach sustainability concepts, we’d love to help! We’ll work with you to craft an engaging, effective learning experience tailored to your specific needs and goals. Get in touch with us today to learn more!

The future of our planet depends on the choices we make today – and by empowering students with the knowledge, skills, and motivation to tackle sustainability challenges, we can help create a brighter, greener tomorrow. Together, let’s create games that inspire the next generation of sustainability leaders!

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