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How to survive on a desert island?

26 May 2021

Have you ever wondered what you would take with you to a desert island? Have you ever been confronted with your deepest fears and the utter must of learning to survive? Have you ever heard of the magical power animal spirits can represent? You have not? Then take a closer look and follow the challenging and exciting journey REAL School students have started.


We have co-created a roleplaying game with our learners to deep dive into a long-lasting journey of surviving. We call it “Spirits of Gaia”. The development of the game is on-going, but we already started to play it a few weeks ago. “Spirits of Gaia” is focused around an interactive narrative. Our kids, the players, are members of communities which work together to survive and thrive on an imaginary island. But make no mistake, the players are all animals. No human exists on the planet. What kinds of animals, you ask?

Well, one of the most exciting parts of the game was when kids chose a “spirit animal” whom they wanted to turn into a character. In certain cultures, a spirit animal refers to a spirit which helps guide or protect a person on a journey and whose characteristics that person embodies. It is also a metaphor for someone or something a person relates to. In our game these animals - wolves and dragons, eagles and fearless lions - form communities that need to face the challenges of collecting food and exploring their surroundings, and of finding ways to cooperate. The literal objective of the game is to survive. The process of co-creating the roles, the characters, the events, and managing the situations that occur on that imaginary island, however, all help kids develop many of their skills. Experiencing the status of flow is an intentional consequence of creation and play.

We have written the narrative book of the game together with the kids. This is how it starts: “There is a place where animals can live free from the human world. There is an island where pollution, humans and cities don’t exist. There is a world where Mother Gaia still holds the world in her hand. This is where it all begins.”

Quite simply, Gaia is life. She is all, the very soul of the Earth. She is a goddess who, by all accounts, inhabits the planet, offering life and nourishment to all her children. In the ancient civilizations, she was revered as mother, nurturer and giver of life. So here they are, the spirit animals (the players) given tunnels, doors, caves and holes that have led to the island of Gaia. They now need to survive, to learn how to cope with a complex system actually built by themselves.

By absorbing themselves in this co-created imaginative game, kids are given the opportunity to practice using their imagination, to exercise their brain, to train it to think creatively, and to learn how to think for themselves. By pretending to be different characters, our players are essentially experimenting with the social and emotional roles of life. The roles of Gaia.

So the journey has begun. We are watching the excitement of the kids grow week by week, as the game progresses, and plan to report on how these beautiful communities of spirit animals make life flourish on a desert island, full of danger and magic. Stay tuned.

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