Calm your farm: gamifying safety for teens

Thursday, 30 November, 2023

Calm your farm: gamifying safety for teens

An online educational game has been developed by several universities to increase knowledge and awareness about farm safety.

Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to injury in the farm environment, given that they are frequently exposed to hazards not typically seen in the home. They are also often given on-farm work responsibilities, which increase as they get older.

The ‘Calm Your Farm’ game was created through a UNSW Sydney-led research collaboration, enabling teenagers to learn about potential hazards in the farm environment and ways to reduce injury risk.

The multidisciplinary group responsible for developing the game includes researchers in injury prevention, education and game development from UNSW, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), James Cook University and the University of Sydney Rural Medical School. This project is supported by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, through the National Farm Safety Education Fund: Improving Farm Safety Practices grant program.

“Thinking about the next generation of farmers, we saw an opportunity to help that younger adolescent age group while they’re still in school,” said project lead Dr Amy Peden, who is an injury prevention researcher at UNSW Medicine & Health.

“The options for getting injured are broader for this age group. They’re more likely to be seen as a worker, someone who can assist. We also know that this is the age when they start to do things unsupervised by their parents, with their friends instead. The farm is often a home and a workplace, which makes things more challenging from an injury prevention perspective,” Peden said.

During this project, the researchers held focus groups with students and teachers at agricultural high schools in regional areas of NSW and Tasmania, to better understand the problem of farm injuries and explore potential interventions.

“What was interesting is that nearly everyone knew someone who’d had a pretty horrific injury on the farm, or they’d been injured themselves,” Peden said.

“It’s clear this is a really big issue and we could do better in terms of primary prevention, starting with a fun way to educate.”

‘Calm Your Farm has four modules, based on high-risk areas or hazards on the farm: vehicles, workshop, paddock and water. Players select a character at the beginning and progress through the modules, completing mini games along the way. The content includes practical information about injury prevention; for example, how to ride a quad bike more safely, recognise hazard symbols and select appropriate clothing for different tasks.

“It’s a great resource for agricultural educators teaching upper primary and high school students. The game was really engaging and the point system inspired some healthy competition in the classroom,” said Sarah Eyb, who is the Coordinator of the Agricultural Centre of Excellence at Orange Anglican Grammar School in NSW’s central west region, and a Vocational Education and Training (VET) teacher for primary industries.

Image caption: A boy from Exeter High School in Tasmania plays 'Calm Your Farm'.

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