Gamifying safety appears to help teens prevent farm injury.

Experts say that the ‘Calm Your Farm’ game, created through a UNSW Sydney-led research collaboration, increases knowledge and awareness about farm safety. 

The game enables teenagers to learn about potential hazards in the farm environment and ways to reduce injury risk.

Adolescents are vulnerable to injury in the farm environment, frequently exposed to hazards not typically seen in the home. 

They are also often given on-farm work responsibilities more and more as they get older.

“The options for getting injured are broader for this age group,” says project lead Dr Amy Peden, who is an injury prevention researcher at UNSW Medicine & Health.

“They’re more likely to be seen as a worker, someone who can assist. We also know that this is the age when they start to do things unsupervised by their parents, with their friends instead. 

“The farm is often a home and a workplace, which makes things more challenging from an injury prevention perspective.”

It is difficult to pin down how often farm injuries occur in teenagers. 

The most recent national data are from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), showing that from 2010-12 and 2014-15, 22,000 people were hospitalised due to an injury which occurred on a farm. 

The number of teenagers (10-19 years) was not counted specifically but this is likely in the thousands.

According to Dr Peden, teenagers are an underserved group when it comes to farm safety education, as well as safety education in general.

“Like many other injury issues, I realised that farm safety and injury prevention is often promoted for very young children or adults. Adolescents get lost in between,” Dr Peden says.

At agricultural high schools, farm safety is covered in the curriculum. However, this typically consists of memorising written content and completing multiple choice questionnaires.

To deliver farm safety education in a more dynamic, interesting way, the researchers decided to create a game that would teach players about safety in the agricultural environment, with input from the students from the focus groups.

“We’ve been co-designing the game with these students, so that it’s more appealing to them,” Dr Peden says.

‘Calm Your Farm’ has four modules, based on high-risk areas or hazards on the farm: Vehicles, Workshop, Paddock and Water. 

Players select a character at the beginning and progress through the modules, completing mini games along the way. 

The content includes practical information about injury prevention, for example how to ride a quad bike more safely, recognise hazard symbols and select appropriate clothing for different tasks.

“It’s the principle of gamification – you don’t want it to be too easy. You want kids to come back again and keep learning,” Dr Peden says.

Once the game was developed, students in focus groups had the opportunity to test it out.

“It’s a really fun and engaging game. It was helpful to see where you went wrong and to try again,” said Asha Templeton, a student at Exeter High School in Tasmania.

“We enjoyed playing the game very much – it was very interactive. I thought it was going to be boring, but it was really fun,” said Cleveland Davey, a fellow student at Exeter High School.

Teachers also had the opportunity to provide feedback on the game.

“It’s a great resource for agricultural educators teaching upper primary and high school students. The game was really engaging and the point system inspired some healthy competition in the classroom!” said Sarah Eyb, who is the Coordinator of the Agricultural Centre of Excellence at Orange Anglican Grammar School in NSW’s central west region, and a Vocational Education and Training (VET) teacher for primary industries.

“’Calm Your Farm’ is a fun way to explore farm safety. It’s not just a game – there’s an important educational meaning behind it,” says Liam Fox, who teaches Agriculture at Exeter High School.