IMAGINE: the scenario game that helps kids think about the future

“It’s 2031, and we are renewing…”

Last week, Teach the Future to introduced a new game called IMAGINE designed to get kids thinking about foresight and the future. We joined The Association of Professional Futurists’ (APF) 12-hour Futures Festival on Friday, September 16, and showed them how it works! They were very excited, and I want to share our experience.

The Festival was an online gathering using Adobe Connect and provided a forum for futurists from around the world to present tools and ideas as well as various projects they are working on. We thought it was a perfect opportunity to test our game with people who understand what futures thinking is all about.

IMAGINE is a card game that Teach the Future designed to help young people create future scenarios grounded in observable change and heightened by imagination. Worth noting is that this game is just one piece of a larger curriculum that Teach the Future is creating to make futures thinking more accessible and fun for both teachers and students (more news on that soon!).

Our experience teaching the future to young people proves that they often have the foundational skills needed to create strong scenarios. They are comfortable spotting trends and signals of change as well as creating wildly imaginative future stories.

But we’ve also found that weaving those two ideas together in one scenario is often a challenge for them.

For the APF event, we created a web version of the game (you can find it here with instructions: teachthefuture.org/imagine) and ran a demo with the group, hoping that we could learn more about the game and receive insight and perspective from experts.

The Scenarios

During the demo, we asked participants to create “fill in the blanks” scenarios using inputs from a set of “spinning wheels” that contained various options. They then combined those with their own ideas, using their imagination and understanding of change.

Here are two scenarios from people who attended our session:

It’s 2031, and we are renewing. Our ocean is thriving and our hope is being restored. Back in 2016, we saw growing concern about trash and plastics, and because of that, new technologies began to emerge. Since then, more floating plastic has been removed from our major oceans.

It’s 2031, and we are renewing. Our ocean is out of pH balance and our hope is that we can rebalance its pH. Back in 2016, we saw acidification of the ocean. Because of that, oceanic food supply was threatened. Since then, new technology has created passive alkalinities, which, when deployed in acidic hot spots, will help transform it and renew a pH which supports life.

You will notice a few similarities in these scenarios. We gave participants some structure and inputs to work with, and then they could take it in any direction they wanted. In a classroom or workshop setting, the game would be paired with some research, it would be played for several rounds, and followed up with analysis to identify insights and next steps.

What We Learned

Though the medium for our first dry run with the game was virtual and we are planning to use cards in the classroom, we learned a lot. Plus, we received some very positive feedback from people who work both with students and with adults. They felt that the game would be a great tool for scaffolding scenario creation. Since that was our objective when designing IMAGINE, that was great to hear.

We’ll continue to finesse how we introduce players to the game and how to stage it so it flows well and delivers valuable outputs. Instead of giving the players everything at once, we may need to take a more step-by-step approach. Please play the game online, we’d love to hear your thoughts!

Next Steps

Later this week, we’re playing the game with students in person at Travis High School in Sugar Land TX, so we’ll have more insight to share. Soon we will have the cards downloadable for anyone to play, and we hope to unveil the whole curriculum early next year.

Stay tuned! And thanks for your support. Please share any comments/suggestions/feedback in the Comments section below.