As adults, we’re bombarded by news of shrinking polar icecaps, mowed-down rainforests and species extinction. We’ve come to realize these inconvenient truths, but how should little kids learn about greenhouse gases and changing temperatures? Why should children care?
Junior Explorers, a Brooklyn-based social enterprise, is taking a unique approach to educate a generation hooked on Facebook and Instagram: they’re using online computer games to introduce introducing kids to nature and wildlife preservation. Targeted at ages 5 to 12, the games take children on a monthly “mission,” visiting virtual ecosystems across the globe from Antarctic icebergs to the African veldt. And for a subscription fee of $19 or less a month, Junior Explorers also mails a kit with additional activities and collectibles, bringing the educational content off-line.
“Everyone’s talking about the planet but we want to speak with the generation most impacted: kids,” says Anurag Agarwal, Junior Explorer’s founder and CEO. “By simply combining all things that kids love: animals, gaming, collecting and sharing, we created a truly experiential program that kids and adults can get excited about.”
A seasoned Wall Street veteran, Agarwal’s love of nature motivated him to found the company last year. On trips to the world’s greatest natural wonders — from the Barrier Reef to the Central American rainforests — he was inspired by the beauty, but also concerned it wouldn’t last. With a team made up of former Gilt Group employees, he started the company with a long-term view of reaching kids to create a generation of environmentalists.
Each mission is led by Kia and Kyle, two cartoon kids in headbands and sneakers ready to explore the world. (Eleven-year-old Kia’s role model? Jane Goodall, the chimpanzee expert. Seven-year-old Kyle’s dream job? A field scientist in the Amazon jungle.) The first excursion takes kids to the polar ice caps, where they help reunite a polar bear cub with its mother.
As they complete tasks, children rack up “Give Back” points, which, at the end of each mission, can be allocated to an environmentally-conscious nonprofit of their choice, like the World Wide Fund for Nature or the Nature Conservancy.
So far, after their first month, the company had subscribers in more than 40 states. In the next year, they’re planning to launch the program across the globe with teams based in India, Brazil and Singapore.
When kids are young, every parent recognizes their instinctive love for cuddly animals. But something happens with age, and sometimes that concern for the natural world diminishes. Junior Explorers hopes to reverse that trend, teaching youngsters that maturity means conserving the globe for the next generation.