Teaching Youth Food Safety: A Game-Based Learning Experience

Representing a diverse audience. When redesigning the game, our team followed our inclusive design framework (Cezarotto, Martinez, Chamberlin, 2022) and intentionally revisited character designs, designing diverse characters and removing any possible stereotypes or tropes (Figure 10). As part of our design process, character designs passed many internal and external reviews and many rounds of youth game consultants' feedback through hands-on design activities (Figure 11).

Figure 11: Learning Games Lab consultants gave feedback on characters throughout game development.


Learners can play “Theme Park Kitchen” individually or collaboratively in formal (classroom) or informal settings such as afterschool programs. The game can be played on a computer, laptop, or tablet using a web browser. The game has five themed areas, with three levels in each area, progressively addressing food safety content. A player should complete the game in about 45 minutes to an hour. Players can play each round multiple times, learning from mistakes to progress. To be successful, the player must adhere to food safety practices to be allowed to serve safe food to the customers. Because the game will enable players to continue serving customers after the restaurant's closing timer, they can continue learning food-safe practices at their own pace. Each level offers increased complexity, and a star reward is given to play in master mode the quicker a player prepares and serves safe food. The star reward offers motivation to strategize how to complete the game efficiently and thoroughly, individually or collaboratively. Collaborative efforts during gameplay allow players to exchange strategies with one another freely. Player strategizing and collaboration are essential to social learning (Martinez, Chamberlin 2017). The instructor can choose whether to make this a collaborative effort or an individual one, which may be based on technology access. We recommend instructors play the game beforehand to familiarize themselves with the levels and content addressed in the game. The game has a function called “unlock all,” so instructors can access any level to plan a lesson on specific food safety content. For example, if they want to address cooking with a thermometer, instructors can ask students to unlock and play the Outer Space Eating’ Place levels, which address cooking with the grill and thermometer. From there, they can engage in discussions and complementary activities around the topic. One tactic an instructor might incorporate is to have players stop at various levels and ask them to describe how to advance levels more efficiently. Once classmates share their tactics with one another, instructors have them return to gameplay to try these new approaches. Encouraging open play and conversation among students makes gameplay enjoyable and collaborative.

Possible discussion topics may include the kinds of food safety practices that students follow at home, or the consequences of improper food preparation. Examples of discussion prompts:

 How often do you wash your hands before preparing meals or snacks at home?

 How often do you wash produce (fruits and vegetables) before you eat them?


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