Good Dirt

As semester one comes to an end I’d like to share with you some of the work I have been doing.

Having a cooked breakfast with my group

Good Dirt was a group project within the Design Studies module. The brief was to design and co-create and game for children that will educate them in healthy eating and where our food comes from, so it kind of ties in to the Farm to Fork project I did last year in this module. The keyword here is “co-create”. There was a huge emphasis on co-design throughout this project, being one of the main learning criteria. We were expected to co-design with our group, with the stakeholders and of course with the users, who in this care are the school children. I’d say this was the most interesting aspect of the project because I had never worked with real clients before.

A typical breakfast club run by schools

During the semester we would be visiting local primary schools in our groups to observe children’s eating habits and to see first hand the breakfast club initiatives that are already in place. Before our visits however we did our own research.

How many of you regularly eat breakfast in the morning? I admit that growing up I rarely ever had breakfast but why do so many children skip the most important meal of the day. Cast your mind back to your childhood. Some of our greatest influences were not so beneficial.

‘Mike Teavee was even more excited than Grandpa Joe at seeing a bar of chocolate being sent by television, “But Mr. Wonka” he shouted, “Can you send other things through the air the same way? Breakfast cereal, for instance?”

“Oh my sainted aunt!” cried Mr. Wonka! Don’t mention that disgusting stuff in front of me! Do you know what breakfast cereal is made of? It’s made of all those little curly wooden shavings you find in pencil sharpeners!”

An extract from Roal Dahl’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Willy Wonka – as his name suggests he is a bit crazy

We learned a lot of interesting things about healthy eating through our stakeholders. Local farmer, Gill Lawrie, expressed the importance of reestablishing a connection between urban and rural living needs. She also gave us a good insight into where our food comes from and how it gets to our supermarkets. Two of our other stakeholders, the Royal Highland Education Trust and the Angus Countryside Initiative, have worked together in the past arranging school visits to farms to help establish this connection. We had support from the Home Grown Cereals Authority and government bodies such as the Food Standards Agency who have already produced games aimed towards healthy eating in children. We have also worked closely with Fhiona Whyte from Dundee City council and her team of Health and Wellbeing assistants.

The FSA Eatwell Plate

My group visited Hillside primary school. We decided before going to the school that we should first find out how much the children already know about healthy eating. We also agreed that with so many healthy eating initiatives already in place it was best not to attempt a new one, but rather support the already existing ones. So we coloured paper plates to look like the FSA Eatwell plate (above) to give to the children so they could draw in the foods into the categories they thought they belonged in. The children demonstrated quite an in depth knowledge of foods at their respective categories.

Healthy plates by children

Co-designing with the children in this way helped us come to a decision that our game would be based around the healthy eating plate. What we came up with was a game in which the children were separated into teams and given a box of foods which they couldn’t see. One child from each team reaches into the box and takes an item of food, races over to a giant plate and place the food in the right category before running back and tagging the next child in their team to go. The first team back wins and are awarded 20 points. Second place get 15 points and third place get 10. Finally, each wrongly placed food gets the team a point deducted.

When we tested the game at the school the children were very enthusiastic about it. Interestingly we found that the children seemed to care more about being right than finishing first. We realised as well that we had no solid way of telling who put what item of food where so we couldn’t fairly deduct points. The children didn’t seem to care for the points system though so alternatively we invited the children to discuss their results. It gave them an opportunity to co-operate and communicate to move wrongly placed foods. We felt that the game was a bit weak only testing the children’s knowledge of food types. The portions of each food type was controlled by the foods we gave them so the balance was always perfect. We decided to put all the foods into one box, make them visible and each child only goes once so even the last child has make a choice of which food to take.

At first the children produced results showing lots of fatty sugary foods and very few fruit and veg. We used this to educate the children and tell them that kind of diet is unhealthy. As the morning progressed the children started making more conscientious decisions bringing up more fruit and veg and less fats and sugars. Finally, our game had a lot more depth, educating the children in a way that was fun, exciting and very active. However, after presenting our concept to the FSA it was pointed out that we hadn’t really touched on where our food comes from and the process it goes through to reach our dinner tables. We felt that we couldn’t go into detail on the subject because it would overload the game a bit. But as a last minute decision, decided to change the box into a barn. We hoped that it would at least raise awareness of where food comes from and the children running towards the plate allows them to sort of role play the process of food being processed and made available. Here’s what our final game looks like:

Our game “Perfect Plate”

As an added extra, our group were asked to design both the invitations that were sent out to the schools, inviting them to come and view or work on display and the certificates that would be given to the children. Digital Interaction designer Amber produced this as the invite:

Amber’s Invite

I took charge of the certificates. I had the idea of making egg cup trophies given the children a more exciting reward for taking part. I included it in the certificate design along with various imagery and logos to fairly represent each of the supporting stakeholders.

Good Dirt Certificate

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed working in the Good Dirt project. I had a very good group consisting of three other Product designers (Lynsey Brownlow, Ewan Baird and Lewis Henderson) and three Digital Interaction designers (Rachael Johnston, Amber Keating and Brian Davidson). Working with them was a pleasure and I enjoyed utilising each others strengths to produce excellent results with each task.

The most valuable experience though was working with the stakeholders and the school children. It’s the first time I have work within the tight constraints given to us by the stakeholders and co-designing with the children to produce a game which they, the users, could enjoy and take true ownership of.

I look forward to more projects like this in the future.

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