Educational games - an innovative tool to inform children and teenagers about COVID-19
Over 9 000 children learned how to protect themselves from COVID-19 by participating in educational games organized in their schools.
Every child and adolescent has the right to access accurate information. This is not only a vital resource for their active participation in shaping the world, but it's also crucial for their safety during global crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This public health emergency has underscored the importance of effective communication with children and teenagers about COVID-19 to protect their health. We can help them to assimilate such complex topics using the principle of learning through play.
In this context, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), in partnership with the National Association of Intellectual Games in the Republic of Moldova and with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), implemented the DIALOGICA project in ten regions of Moldova from March to July 2023. The project trained over 280 teachers and 300 adolescents who are part of student councils to effectively communicate with children aged 10-13 about COVID-19 and vaccination using educational games. All schools involved benefited from educational materials dedicated to these informational activities. As a result, more than 9,000 pupils from across the country learned about the immunization process and protective measures against COVID-19 and other infections through play.
The educational games organized in over 280 schools culminated in a national conference in Chisinau. Over 120 pupils from all over the country, 20 teachers and representatives of the County Education Directorates played, communicated, and participated in a flash mob, highlighting that educational games are the most effective method to inform children and adolescents about health, protection, and personal development topics.
Sixteen-year-old Elena, a member of the student council at ‘Alexandru Puskin’ High School in Anenii Noi, is one of the young people trained to inform children about COVID-19 and vaccination through the organization of educational games. "The children knew some information about COVID-19 and other diseases but were not very well informed. We introduced these topics through games, and they began to understand better”, says Elena. ”For me, this project allowed me to communicate with younger children, and other people around me. Also, I realized that I want to focus on my personal development and that when you discuss less known topics with different people, you learn many new things."
"We have started to address everything related to infections seriously. I've made many friends from different classes and have been communicating more."
Moreover, Vadim Sirghi, a primary school teacher at the ‘Mihai Grecu’ High School in Chisinau, notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted all children. Educational games are an innovative solution to help them more easily overcome the trauma left by restrictive measures, such as a lack of communication with their peers. "Children are very engaged in educational games. During these activities, they eagerly seek answers to questions and more easily memorize information. Due to COVID-19, they could not communicate and perceived the infection as an enemy hindering their lives. Now, children are more relaxed, but we must continue to remind them about protective measures," says Vadim. "Thanks to the games, class hours are very active. The children are eager to participate over and over again. In this way, we can ensure the necessary information reaches them. For example, during personal development lessons, it can be difficult to explain certain health-related topics, or human relationships to children. I believe that it would be an excellent practice to approach these topics through games."
Asked about the impact of educational games on her life, Anastasia, a 13-year-old student at the ‘Alexandru Puskin’ High School in Anenii Noi, says that the discussions about health with her classmates have become more engaging. "After these activities, my classmates and I had extensive discussions and decided to get vaccinated against COVID-19. I enjoyed the time spent with my peers, learning together. We have started to address everything related to infections seriously. I have made many friends from different classes and have been communicating more," says Anastasia.
"All students, including teachers, were involved in the process. These games have helped us improve communication with our teachers."
In addition to informing children and adolescents about COVID-19 and vaccination in a friendly way, educational games have contributed to improving communication between teachers and students and fostering partnerships in the best interest of every child. "The children who participated in the games started to make observations about protective measures and teach the younger ones how to protect themselves," says Mariana Cracan, head of the Curriculum Management Section in the General Directorate of Education, Culture, and Tourism in Anenii Noi. "The teachers and members of student councils jointly organized activities for 5th and 6th-grade pupils. They worked in partnership, and the teachers got to know the children's needs better."
Elena, 17, and Maria, 18, from the Corten village, Taraclia district, also organized educational games alongside their teachers. Both are part of the student council at ‘St. Paisius of Hilendar’ High School. "All students, including the teachers, were involved in the process. These games have improved communication with the teachers. They shared their experiences with us, which helped us better understand each other," says Elena.
"It was a fantastic opportunity to communicate effectively with my younger classmates and collaborate with the teachers. I am convinced these activities will help my career because I have received valuable experience and knowledge. It is another step towards my achievements. Today, young people need to be involved in the decision-making process. We are the future, and our voices need to be heard," says Maria, who is the student council president at her school.
As a result of the implementation of the DIALOGICA project in ten regions of Moldova, and in order to determine the effectiveness of the activities, the Association of Intellectual Games, conducted a survey at the beginning and at the end of the project, involving 1380 children and adolescents. According to the results, 31% more children mentioned that vaccination is a safe method to prevent diseases.
UNICEF thanks USAID for the support provided in informing children and adolescents from Moldova about the risks and protective measures against COVID-19.