The Highland Climate Challenge (developed by Twenty Squares) aims to teach children about energy, waste and efficient behaviour through gamification.

The Highland Climate Challenge (developed by Twenty Squares) aims to teach children about energy, waste and efficient behaviour through gamification. The game, which is accessible by the children online, was rolled out through schools, allowing teachers to tie the activities into classroom curriculum.

The Highland Climate Challenge has three main sections: a carbon diary, a learning hub, and an island game. The carbon diary encourages energy efficiency behaviour, rewarding users with points for every positive action they log throughout the week– e.g. walking to school, turning off lights, etc.

The learning hub allows children to learn about energy, the environment and related topics with a ‘quest’ focusing on a specific new topic every week. This is done through reading, watching videos and answering quizzes. Again, points are rewarded for learning, with special points for engaging with the quest. This section is structured to provide a variety in ways children can learn which makes this section more accessible to all users regardless of age or level of understanding. Older children and those who wish to go beyond the basics of a topic are encouraged to do so and there is material to cater to them, as well as sections suitable for younger users.

Finally, the island section aims to show children how their actions can have consequences on the planet. Each user is given an island, and as they play the game and engage in good energy behaviour, the sea level of the island falls, revealing more island to build on. Players can use the points earned in the previous two sections to add structures, such as houses, cars, recycling centres and solar panels, with the end goal to create a carbon neutral community.

The Highland Climate Challenge has a built in leader board, encouraging friendly competition between the children playing. Users are ranked as individuals, as teams and as schools.

Innovation and Savings

From an energy management standpoint, schools have been difficult buildings to tackle. Working with and educating children offers a different route when considering how to lower energy cost and consumption. Since the pupils use the building every day, engaging them over energy and environmental issues is a logical option. With the added bonus of being able to tie the Highland Climate Challenge in with the curriculum and other classroom activities, it is a system that benefits everyone involved.

Twenty Squares, the developers of the game, can estimate the carbon and monetary savings made through the game. While these savings will not be concentrated solely in the school – many of the good behaviours activities may be focused in the home, schools will still benefit. By encouraging and rewarding energy efficiency through gamification, these actions can become lifelong habits and will influence how children use energy in school.

From a child’s point of view, perhaps one of the most attractive features of this project is how fun and engaging it is. Gamification offers a new way to hold people’s attention and teach them about energy. Unfortunately, many people ‘switch off’ when the topic of energy is discussed, so presenting the subject in a more accessible way helps to impart the key messages.

While the Highland Climate Challenge has been focused on children, it is worth noting that it can influence the adults around the child. By helping or playing with the user, parents and teachers can also engage with the game and its lessons. Furthermore, we have anecdotally seen children leading by example to encourage caregivers and teachers to be energy efficient as well.


A pilot of The Highland Climate Challenge was run this year between mid-May to mid-June, lasting a period of 7 weeks. 6 schools across the Highland region participated in the pilot, with ages ranging from P3 (7 years old) to P7 (11 years old).  This gave 108 teams, and 448 players.

Over the pilot, Twenty Squares modelled the following savings:

Carbon saved: 63,000kg CO₂

Energy saved: 174,000 kWh

Money saved: £31,400

Average carbon saved per player per week: 19kg

Average carbon saved per player per week in the top 20 teams: 45kg

Feedback was sought from the teachers of participating classes. Those that gave feedback represented about 60% of those who took part. Regarding how the game was used in the school, over 80% used it as a classroom resource. When asked if they felt the children had learnt more playing the game than if the topics had been presented solely as a classroom exercise, 75% of teachers felt the children had learnt more with the game. We believe this shows the value of the Highland Climate Challenge as an educational tool, and its strength to support teachers in delivering this vast topic.

When questioned on whether they felt the children enjoyed playing the game more than if the topic had been presented as a classroom topic only, 60% of the teachers said they felt it was more enjoyable. No teachers felt the game was not interesting to pupils.

50% of the pupils of the teachers questioned played the game at home. This is a great statistic as parents and caregivers can be exposed to the game, widening the circle of the number of people who learn from it.

Table A: Most Diary Activities


As can be seen from Table A, energy efficiency behaviour related to school ranked the 7th most frequent in the carbon diary. It is also worth noting that there may be cross over between the other action headers and in-school behaviour. For example, devices, recycling, power and water are all behaviours that happen at home as well as at school.

Image A: An example of the island section of the game from Avoch Primary School


While there was fantastic engagement in the pilot, it should be noted that the time of year over which the pilot was run may have been hindered participation. A drop off in engagement was noted towards the end of the pilot period, but as this was the end of the school year, this was to be expected.


We are currently working with Twenty Squares to make the Highland Climate Challenge even better. We are reviewing content to allow deeper exploration of topics over weeks or a school term. This will strengthen it game’s use as a classroom resource as it could be revisited over the school year to fit the curriculum and will keep pupils engaged and saving energy all year.

The full game is due to be rolled out to all Highland Council schools in 18/19, supported by CPD’s for teachers on saving energy, waste and renewable technology.