Another Benefit of Hydro: Envirovolt Game Teaches Students about Hydropower

One of the goals at Canadian provincial utility Hydro-Quebec is to teach people more about where they get their energy, and specifically, more about hydropower. One of the tools to accomplish this goal is the Envirovolt educational game kit. The kit contains activities that help students ages 9 to 12 develop notions and competencies that are part of the Quebec Education Program, such as geography and science, as well as cross-curricular competencies: appropriate cooperation and communication. The kit is offered free of charge to schools in the province, as well as to a science day camp.

Goals of the kit

The Envirovolt game kit aims to educate youth about the environmental and sustainability challenges involved in the generation, transmission and distribution of hydropower. The kit is also meant to teach players about the environmental measures taken by Hydro-Quebec for its electricity generation, transmission and distribution projects.

The kit was developed in collaboration with the Quebec firm CREO, which specializes in the creation of educational science games for youth. It was initially created for science day camps and is designed to teach 9- to 12-year-olds about the environmental issues related to power system construction.

Through the kit’s five activities, students are invited to think about which actions will have the least impact on wildlife, plants and humans as they build a dam and transmission and distribution lines. Players discover the environmental measures Hydro-Quebec implements to protect animal and plant species when carrying out its own projects.

The game illustrates the possible impacts of hydropower projects and emphasizes the importance of civic action, the search for solutions, public consultation, and sustainability principles.

Specific objectives

The goals Hydro-Quebec has for this game include:

– Introducing basic hydropower generation principles;

– Showing how environmental concerns are considered at every step of the design and construction of a hydropower station, as well as in the daily operation of electricity generation, transmission and distribution facilities;

– Explaining that every environmental problem can be combined with a solution or mitigation measure, with a view to sustainability;

– Presenting the biological and scientific issues related to the environment and hydropower;

– Sparking and nurturing curiosity about environmental and hydropower sciences;

– Showing the environmental advantages of Quebec hydropower; and

– Familiarizing players with the consultation process.

Students work on a puzzle as part of Hydro-Quebec's Envirovolt game. The game, designed for students 9 to 12 years old, teaches them about hydropower and the environmental considerations that come with building and operating hydropower projects.
Students work on a puzzle as part of Hydro-Quebec’s Envirovolt game. The game, designed for students 9 to 12 years old, teaches them about hydropower and the environmental considerations that come with building and operating hydropower projects.

How the game works

A scenario in which the game is played could follow thusly: The teacher or a student dresses up as an engineer and asks for the students’ help to carry out an energy development project in a given region. To meet the electricity demand in the coming years, a hydropower generating station with a reservoir must be built, as well as power transmission and distribution lines to connect these facilities to the existing system.

The students become the environmental specialists who will help the engineer reduce the potential impacts of this project on the environment. Acting as biologists, geographers and archaeologists, they will complete a survey of the territory, evaluate the potential environmental effects of developing a hydropower project and building the necessary transmission and distribution lines, and come up with solutions to protect wildlife, plants and humans.

A treasure hunt race, a game of tag and puzzles are just some of the various activities included in the game kit.

Through these activities, players learn various notions related to hydropower, such as the steps involved in hydro generation; how a generating station works; the environmental studies required prior to, during and after projects; the jobs associated with these studies; and the environmental measures implemented by Hydro-Quebec to protect animal and plant species throughout an affected area.

Grade school students work on an assignment that is part of Hydro-Quebec's Envirovolt game.
Grade school students work on an assignment that is part of Hydro-Quebec’s Envirovolt game.

Kit promotion and distribution

Under an agreement between Hydro-Quebec and the Conseil de developpement du loisir scientifique, the kit is distributed to science day camps and elementary schools for students in grades 5 and 6. Thanks to this collaboration, the company has reached about 30,000 young Quebecers since 2005.

The kit is offered only in French and is free-of-charge: It is lent out to the teachers of all elementary schools in Quebec and to the science day camp Les debrouillards. About 20 kits circulate throughout Quebec year-round. Teachers who wish to receive a kit must reserve it with their region’s Conseil de developpement du loisir scientifique.

The kit is in high demand in schools. Hydro-Quebec receives positive feedback from teachers who feel its content and educational approach are in line with the Quebec Education Program, specifically in the areas of science and social sciences. Most elementary school teachers have a general education background and are not specialized science teachers. The kit allows them to teach scientific notions related to energy, a theme included in the Quebec Education Program. They also appreciate the quality of the kit’s content.

Hydro-Quebec is revising its Envirovolt game kit to adapt it for students in grades 3 and 4. The main theme will be biodiversity preservation. Students will discover the actions taken by Hydro-Quebec to help preserve animal and plant species. This kit should be available in the fall of 2013.

Hydro-Quebec believes it is important to educate students about the facts of hydropower as well as all that goes into developing hydropower projects. An added benefit: Nurturing scientific curiosity among grade school children in a fun and interactive way.

– By Louis-Olivier Batty, public affairs and media specialist, Hydro-Quebec

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