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I Love Potatoes
Pros: Adorable art and animation, includes important lessons for both students' daily life and the greater world, engaging and useful extension materials.
Cons: It's easy to get lost while navigating in the game; players don't actually direct the story action.
Bottom Line: This free app, when used with the extension materials, will help students understand their role in the environment and the economy, and empower them to make change for the better.
Begin by following the teacher guide for I Love Potatoes, which instructs your class to view a documentary about how students can make a difference in their world, and then have a class discussion about environmental and social change. Next, have students play the game, followed by more of the activities, which use skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and teamwork. Discuss the concept of treating groups of people as something "other" and how to avoid/remedy it, which is a concept that's included in the game but is, unfortunately, not heavily addressed.
This game and the available lesson plans can be used in many different classes, including social studies and science. Focus on teaching students about real-world practices, and little and big things they can do to help guide the world in a positive and sustainable direction. The game includes options to play in several languages and is also available to play in a web browser.
From the National Film Board of Canada comes I Love Potatoes, an adorable adventure game that promotes conservation, reflecting on one's own consumption behaviors, and collaboratively taking action for social change. Students play as Chips, a being who lives in the Land of Potatoes. He and the other villagers feed potatoes to the Potato Monster in return for food, supplies, and various luxury items, and the monster puts out potato peels as waste. But some of the villagers get too greedy and demand too much, overwhelming the Potato Monster. The mayor doesn't demonstrate responsible leadership, and the potato plants die. It's up to players (playing as Chips) to determine what went wrong, how to fix it, and how to prevent it from happening again.
Along the way, players will need to make new friends, work together to solve problems, and direct their society in a more sustainable direction. They'll convince the monster to eat potato peels instead of whole potatoes -- helping with the peel build-up problem -- and they'll remake discarded luxury items into machines to help with everyday problems. Through these actions, the game promotes using waste in useful ways and reconfiguring discarded items to make them into something new.
Between tasks, Chips runs into Tuberosa, a mentor who provides Chips with helpful messages and lessons, giving a modicum of context for the tasks he's carrying out. The major characters in the game are based on real-life social innovators whom students can learn about inside the app.
To play I Love Potatoes, players tap and drag their fingers on the screen to move Chips around and to interact with other game characters and objects. The navigable routes in the game are very convoluted, and it can be hard to stay oriented, even for older players. An overview map of where you can go would be helpful, or at least a guiding arrow to show you the right direction to go.
I Love Potatoes' built-in lessons on social change and sustainable living are valuable ones, and it's easy to directly apply them to students' daily lives. On the I Love Potatoes website, the available Innovator's Guide and the Teacher and Parent Guides provide an extensive number of additional lessons and activities to do surrounding the game, driving home the game's lessons and challenging students to take action themselves.
While the game itself is enjoyable and filled with positive messages, these extension lessons are imperative for students to get the most learning out of the game. The game has an obvious storyline that players have to follow, and they don't have much opportunity to make choices or to guide the direction of the story. But, after going through the external guides' activities, students will come away with an important understanding of sustainability, collective action, and social innovation.