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What did we do?

A co-design process aimed at increasing the number of people visiting key national parks was not only creative in its overall engagement program but included the innovative use of computer gaming that successfully engaged children.

Using a popular computer game, Minecraft brought ideas from 40 schools in the area about how parks should look. And the competition attracted unexpected worldwide media attention.

The Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) wanted to gather ideas from Adelaide’s northern and southern communities to support a goal to increase the number of people visiting parks.

The overall co-design process was aimed at finding out what new infrastructure and services people thought should be provided from State Government funds of $8.9 million.

The engagement process included round table events, stakeholder meetings, an online survey and a series of discovery days to encourage people to experience their local parks.

Two co-design teams were established involving State and local government, education, conservation groups like Friends of Parks, tour operators, the migrant community, and recreation and leisure groups to consider the suggestions and make recommendations.

DEWNR staff decided to ramp up the involvement of young people to complement park discovery days including ranger walks, kayaking and mountain biking workshops.

They turned to Minecraft - a popular computer game that allows players to create 3D structures, encouraging creativity and an interest in design and architecture.

Thanks to its popularity and fun factor, it was also emerging as an effective means of engaging children.

Classes of Primary students in grades four to seven in the metropolitan area and Adelaide Hills were invited to use Minecraft to design their ideal national park, including elements such as walking and cycling trails, toilets, picnic areas, interpretive trails, playgrounds and any other features they would enjoy.

After visiting a park either as a class or with their families, the students discussed what they had done there, and what they would like to do in parks in future. They then used the computer game to design their ideal national park taking into account conservation of the landscape and native species, and the need to be sustainable and environmentally friendly. Importantly it had to be practical and be able to be built in the real world.

The winning class from Linden Park Primary School won a VIP excursion to Belair National Park including nature education activities.

DEWNR considered it was vital to have input from children as they have a big influence on what their families do during leisure time, and they will be park users of the future.

Using the computer game encouraged the involvement of young people using a technique and program that many were familiar with. It encouraged a combination of visiting the park, and then being able to collaborate and create their ideal park in the classroom.

The results were designs including practical elements such as trails, barbecue and picnic areas, toilets, campgrounds, car parks, cafes and visitor centres, as well as fun elements such as mazes, tree houses, lookouts and climbable towers, natural play areas and adventure playgrounds.

In total the DEWNR co-design engagement process involved 11-thousand people including families of the students who then helped design their ideal park in the classroom.

While adults’ ideas were collected through more traditional means such as round tables, the online survey and direct feedback during park discovery days, the Minecraft competition was integral to gauging what children wanted from parks.

As well as the international media interest, more people have been brought into the process through the 9,000 views on YouTube of the winning, runner-up and highly commended entries.

The final list of recommended projects from the co-design teams includes many of the elements featured in the competition entries, including walking and cycling trails, barbecue areas, lookouts, toilets, campgrounds and specially-designed natural play spaces to encourage unstructured play and exploration.

What went well?

The whole co-design process brought more people into parks and sparked their interest in contributing to the design of parks into the future. Use of the computer game brought many well thought out ideas as well as many fun ideas for the future.

The Minecraft part of the engagement program cost very little. Many schools already had the program so the cost to participate was minimal.

Download a PDF of the Craft your perfect National Park case study (PDF, 282KB).