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Rivercraft 2: The game engaging young people on flood risk

Posted: 09/05/23

Environment Agency Press Release: 25.4.2023

Rivercraft 2 will help to educate children and young people about the risks of flooding – and inspire them to careers where they can make a difference.

Rivercraft 2, a suite of games launched today (25 April), will help to educate children and young people about the risks of flooding – and inspire young people to careers where people can make a difference.

Produced by a partnership of the Environment Agency, Microsoft and developers BlockBuilders to engage young people on flood risk reduction, climate change and biodiversity, the games provide an innovative and exciting geography resource for students and teachers.

The launch of Rivercraft 2, available on the Minecraft Education Edition, follows the success of the original game, rolled out last April and based on the £54.7 million flood risk management scheme in Preston and South Ribble. The in-game Preston world represented the first use of artificial intelligence to map a region and convert it into an interactive Minecraft map.

Rivercraft 2 is a continuation of this project, now based in generic urban and rural worlds rather than a specific location, making it applicable to all. The suite comprises the following three games:

  • Game 1 – Nature-based Solutions, where the player has to use natural methods to reduce flood risk, including by restoring rivers, building ponds and helping beavers to build their dam;
  • Game 2 – Farming, Irrigation and Drought, where the player has to find the right balance of water use, leafy crops and cover crops for a successful harvest and to ensure wildlife survives during a drought;
  • Game 3 – Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) and Water Efficiency in the home, where the player has to construct sustainable urban drainage features to reduce surface water flooding and complete tasks around a typical home to reduce water use.

Aiming to inspire the scientists and engineers of tomorrow, Rivercraft 2 features real Environment Agency specialists represented in the game as non-playable characters (NPCs). For example, players could encounter environmental project manager Amelia Russell, who ensures new projects protect species, habitats, landscapes and heritage, or water resources adviser Mark Harvett, who provides advice on modernisation projects for taking water from groundwater or surface water stores.

Rivercraft 2 has received industry recognition, having been shortlisted for two awards: for the Excellence in Innovation category as part of the Geography in Government awards and for the Innovation Excellence category as part of the Flood and Coast Excellence awards 2023. The winner of the former will be announced at an awards ceremony in London on 15 May, while the winner of the latter will be announced on 7 June at the Flood and Coast conference.

John Curtin, Environment Agency chief executive, said:

“This is an amazing opportunity for young people to learn about flooding, the environment and climate resilience in a really fun and interactive way. We know that climate anxiety is a real issue for young people, so we hope these games not only help to educate but also inspire, by providing them with the skills and knowledge to take action and make a difference.

We hope these games drive new interest in careers in science, technology, engineering and maths, as well as introducing the next generation to the brilliant career opportunities we have in the Environment Agency. Their creativity and talent are very much needed in our race for climate resilience. We can’t wait to see these games land, excite young people and connect them with their environment in new dynamic ways.”

Janet Ruffhead, head of humanities at Bishop’s Hatfield Girls’ School, said:

“The creative animation and competitive element built into the games kept the students engaged throughout. My students loved this new innovative way of learning about the impacts of climate change and managing river flooding, as well as learning about so many interesting job opportunities. I highly recommend this educational product.”

A student at Bishop’s Hatfield Girls’ School said:

“The games were really fun and I learnt a lot. This is a great way to learn about flooding and climate change.”

The first three Rivercraft games, which were released in April 2022, have been played by around 27,000 young people and teachers in the UK. Once the Rivercraft 2 games are released in April 2023, we aim at least to double this impact in the UK.

The existing Rivercraft games have already been used successfully at the Big Bang Fair (the UK’s biggest STEM event for young people) and at the Science Museum in London during their summer 2022 exhibition, as well as for local educational outreach work across the Environment Agency. The Rivercraft 2 games will also continue to be used in this way for the duration of their time on the Minecraft Education Edition.

Education forms a crucial part of the Environment Agency’s programme of increasing community resilience to flooding. More widely, our new flood defences have ensured that 374,000 homes have been better protected since 2015. We continue to do more, delivering a record £5.2 billion investment to better protect hundreds of thousands of properties, and the Environment Agency’s FCERM strategy will prepare us for more extreme weather and build a more resilient nation.

The Rivercraft 2 project team consulted the Geographical Association to ensure the games’ content is closely aligned to the National Geography Curriculum.

The games were tested with young people and teachers in both primary and secondary schools, including the Beech Hyde Primary School and the Bishop’s Hatfield Girls’ School in Hertfordshire, and proved highly popular. Rivercraft 2 is now available to schools around the country and can be downloaded here.

You can find out if you’re at risk of flooding by checking your postcode on the government’s website and you can also sign up for flood warnings. These warn of the risk of flooding from rivers, the sea and groundwater. You’ll be alerted by phone, email or text when flooding is expected.