Joga Cria is a relational learning project that encourages young people to create games and embark on a learning journey to develop autonomy, confidence, relationships, and explore their subjects of interest. This project has been going on since 2014 and was co-created with teenagers from favelas of Rio de Janeiro.
In 2014 I was getting to know several teenagers in the location of Complexo do Lins (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), where I was living at the time, and one thing that caught my attention was how uninterested they were in all matters that concerned school. Dropout rates were extremely high, most were dropping out before finishing Middle school. I wanted to understand what was going on, and see if there was anything that I could do to stimulate their learning interest.
As an adult, creating a connection with teenagers isn’t usually an easy task. After several attempts, I figured out that talking about games was a huge ice breaker, and it helped me connect with them. I was at the time investigating the gaming world, since I was working with Gamification, so it was a genuine interest I had. I was also interested in project-based learning, so the connection was quite obvious, and I started asking them: “what if you could create your own game?”. The spark in their eyes every time they heard that question was the indication of what direction to go.
The process of co-creation followed. I talked several times to many teenagers in the location, reached out to educators, designers and professionals in the area of games, and together with two teenagers we sketched what would be a game creation workshop in the community. We discussed every single detail together, from the program, to how we would invite other youngsters, to how we should arrange the space – they were part of the whole concept and that was intentional.
We then ran the first edition: a 3-day workshop that happened in the community association space (Associação de Moradores da Cachoeira Grande). More than 20 kids of all ages showed up, and it was exciting to see them extremely engaged in the activities, learning and most of all having fun. They were so excited about the project that many showed up in my house early the next day to continue the activities.
After this first workshop, I was already on a good path to creating a solid relationship with these kids. They always asked me about when it would be held again, because they wanted to keep creating games. Some principles guided this project, and the creation of relationships was one of them. It was based on peer learning, and with the aim of helping them develop autonomy on their own learning process. It was centered in each one’s interests, and from there we tried to guide them through the creative process. We noticed how important it was to develop their self-confidence, and seeing their accomplishments – even if they were very simple games – helped them a lot in this process.
Several editions followed this first 3-day workshop. Some were short (a day), some lasted a few months. One was run totally by a teenager, who became a multiplier (that was one of the main goals of this project!). One took place in a school. Other in another favela. There were significant learnings in all of these formats.
Throughout these many editions, many people were involved and many insights developed. Creating a learning initiative where the teenagers themselves were asked to be responsible for running several aspects of it was a challenge, and in my perspective it was one of the key characteristics that helped them develop autonomy. We could clearly see how engaged they became in the learning process when they were heard, able to materialize their ideas and show their games to other people. There wasn’t any sort of mechanics applied to oblige them to go to the sessions – free will was highly valued. Nevertheless, whenever a teenager stopped coming, we’d try to figure out what was happening, by talking to them or to their families – that was the heaviest part of the work. With some of them, it took a lot of persistence on my part, because I knew they were interested but something was holding them back. Kids who are in vulnerable conditions often have many challenges to overcome, in order to be able to commit and fully show their potential, and part of the work was to instill them with confidence through our relationship and through the materialization of what they were creating.
This initiative is part of a larger inquiry and experimentation on Open P2P Design.
Project page: www.facebook.com/JogaCria/