Seeding Virtual Worlds: Kids’ Going Green in Dizzywood Gazebo

dizzywood_logo.pngYesterday in my Nim’s Island post about integrating eco-values with entertainment, Izzy Neis posted a query in the comment section, “What do you think would make a great example of supporting environmentally friendly causes in virtual spaces without taking over the site’s brand?”

I thought about Dizzywood immediately, in one of those forehead-banging moments where I realized I’m so close to the example that I didn’t ‘see the forest through the trees.’

Shaping Youth is exploring an ‘in-world’ research alliance with the creatures and critters of this magical forest, finding ways to instill ‘powers’ of media literacy and behavioral positives via original storylines…

And yet? I’ve never featured them, as they’re evolving in tweenage “testing phase,” and it almost feels like ‘nepotism,’ since I’m potentially interested in the platform if it gets refined to a point where it can ‘do what I want it to do.’ (Izzy referenced Dizzywood here and here)

So far, their commercial-free, kid-safe environs are prime for Shaping Youth to test the use of digital technology to seed knowledge, enable fun to flourish and grow without the preach-n-teach boredom of the schoolyard scene, once it comes out of beta and solidifies core content. For instance, their new ‘garden gazebo’ eco-embedded message has a variety of behavioral benefits that could easily springboard from online to offline outdoors.

Dizzywood is ‘planting’ the concept of collaboration, as kids nourish and tend a garden that grows faster with teamwork…

plant-a-tree.jpgBy rewarding kids with seeds instead of the usual ‘coinage and consumption’ cues, they’re enabling more meaningful content to take root, a prize in itself.

Now…with a digital dose of creativity and open-ended experimentation how about if we take it another step further?

What if we build community, encouraging love of nature and the outdoors…by using those ‘magic seeds’ earned online to be exchanged offline, partnering with a school gardening program or nonprofit like Plant A Tree Today, so kids can literally see their efforts to help climate control grow and thrive?

garden-gazebo.jpgWhat if Dizzywood found a benign underwriter, like an eco-nursery, or OSH or Home Depot or Smith & Hawken to sponsor ‘free seeds and soil’ for kids to exchange out there in the real world and watch their garden grow?

What if we asked kids to submit their compost ideas for eco-changes in their schools, like the Reel Thinking educational contest is doing. (that project is leading right now in voting)

doofbloglogo.gifWhat if a pbs kids’ food show like Doof (food spelled backwards, currently in development) tied into the mix to add more green? (also, here’s Doof’s blog noting that pbs has a four-part documentary coming up this week on food inequality, fyi)

dw-science-tent.jpg What if Dizzywood’s “science tent” took the green scene to a new level of plant wonder and partnered with an edu-firm like Tickle Me Plants who are giving away FREE packets of seeds for the first hundred people who give “three or more reasons why plants are important to the health of Planet Earth and Its Inhabitants?”

I’d say that’s a cool way to engage kids, help them get excited and appreciative of plants and nature, AND bridge from online to offline worlds to boot.

Add a smidge of philanthropy, (The TickleMe Plant folks will donate 1% of all 2008 profits to The Nature Conservancy’s program to save the rainforest called “Adopt an Acre®”) and I’d say you’ve got some online to offline balance and a healthier use of media and marketing.

Just brainstorming as a creative director here, as we’re still sorting out what Shaping Youth might bring to this platform and haven’t sent in a test team to delve deeper ‘in-world’ yet, but so far, I really like what Dizzywood is trying to achieve with their ‘garden gazebo’ and beyond.

When I visited the Dizzywood offices in San Francisco, to approach founder Scott Arpajian with the concept of a pilot media literacy ‘living lab’ where kids’ avatars could earn ‘special powers’ for reaching new levels of knowledge that keep kids safe online, (rewarding behavioral change that’s positive instead of the ‘Miss Bimbo’ style drek and ‘Struts’ style cues) I was duly impressed.

Seems they’re trying hard to use the digital sphere to instill positive values in fun, fresh ways; so I’ll be using this as an example in my workshop tomorrow at CCFC to show that used responsibly, the power of media for positive change CAN peacefully coexist with childhood, the outdoors, and free play!

For the record, I’m not just giving Dizzywood kudos because I want to test Shaping Youth’s counter-marketing concepts and media literacy in-world…I could do that in virtually ANY beta-venue that needs quality content.

The people behind Dizzywood give me the sense there’s a sincere, authentic, desire to make a healthier ‘world’ for kids…AND they’re interested in going beyond ‘making some green on being green’…And that, to me, is gold. πŸ˜‰

Here’s a sample from the Dizzywood blog…

“Did you know that before our resident animals arrived in the land of Dizzywood, massive magical creatures roamed the land, flew through the skies and swam the seas? Well, one of these brave creatures was named the Great Dizz and he made his home in an area called Wild Wood. The sad thing is, no one, not even Presto himself, knows where these ancient creatures went. One particular animal, Katherine deClaw, found the remains of the Great Dizz’s private garden and took it upon herself to rebuild it in his honor. She even built a wooden gazebo and recently began to re-grow many of the magic plants that grew there… and YOU CAN HELP”…etc. etc.

Related Articles

Gamasutra: Dizzywood’s Arpajian Talks About Motivating Kids Play

Izzy Neis: Dizzywood Gets Props: $1M of them!

Virtual World News: Interview With Scott Arpajian on Bucking Trends With Dizzywood

Virtual World News: Kids World Dizzywood Opens

Izzy Neis: Dizzywood Spins Itself Into the VW Market for Youth

Info on Kids’ TickleMe Plant Seeds, FREE for Earth Day are below:

(from their e-newsletter)

“Send your email response in the form of words, pictures, poems, etc to: or mail a letter to: Earth Day Contest, TickleMe Plant Company, 60 Hurds Corner Road, Pawling, N.Y 12564.

“We are offering this contest because we want kids to become sensitive to and aware of the importance of plants. In addition, we love seeing how excited kids get the first time they tickle their plant and it moves!” says Larry Chipkin —President of the TickleMe Plant Company. Everyone is a winner, as all entries and letters with email addresses will be emailed a two dollar discount coupon. Winners will be informed on or before Earth Day April 22, 2008. Some responses will be posted on the website.”



  1. Check out ZooKaZoo too, Amy. They’ve got a lot of conservation support weaved throughout the site (even in game play). And thanks for the awesome kudos. You, as always, are the greatest!

    Chat soon, ya?


  2. Izzy, I’ve been put in contact with them by one of my NextNow team and I just haven’t had the bandwidth to follow up, since I’ve been away! In fact, I received a ‘postcard’ from within ZooKaZoo but couldn’t open it (the fated red box/don’t see anything bit, so need to run it through the filter permissions/spam folder and see if I can read it)

    Was that from you by chance? Or from their founder? Couldn’t tell! I’ve been trying to connect with him…just time crimped.

  3. I think this connecting between vws and real world agencies is a great opportunity for everyone involved. I know Whyville has had much success with this in the past, but the ideas you talk about are much more sophisticated and will achieve much deeper learning in the kids who take part.

    I too have been impressed with Dizzywood’s use of collaboration in their games. I love the idea of a story-driven world, not that they are the first to do this, but I’m still concerned with the games/coins/stuff cycle they have in place. When vws get beyond this paradigm, I think we will start seeing the positive potential these spaces can provide.

  4. Absolutely agree that the consumerism issue is a huge one, and having just spent the last few days at the CCFC summit, it will take me awhile to ‘process’ all the research data flinging my way in terms of just how HUGE the damage is on both the psyche/soul/consumption detriment AND the eco/’buy-buy-baby’ profit driven one. I really think that parents would PAY NOT to have their kids’ mined for profit, and that’s what it may come to…virtual worlds or not.

    This points to a subscriber model, I suppose…but we can’t have the freeware/freeshare expectations in a digital content world that’s being driven by click-throughs and ad rev.

  5. Hi gang, quick note to say I’ll pick up this conversation when I get back to S.F. as I’m flying today…but have much to add after long talks with Sarah Grimes at Gamine Expedition here, etc. Such a great wealth of info!!! More soon…Amy

  6. Yeah, I sent you that postcard from Zookazoo. Thought you’d enjoy the awesome conservation facts they implemented into various game-plays and world tags. πŸ˜‰ Catch ya soon.

  7. I’m starting to notice a lot of other virtual worlds are starting to follow the green initiative. I think it’s great to see.

  8. Agree! What are your favorite ones? Have you checked out many? I’m nuts for Elf Island (which is not just green but a real online to offline interplay) and am not inside of much yet, nor revisited Hulala Girls recently. You?
    I’ll be doing some follow up features soon…just arrived back in the country tonight! πŸ™‚ Tx. for the comment…Amy

  9. Oh Amy–you’ve got to check out There’s a Fountain of Giving that lets kids donate virtual points to the Humane Society–it’s underwritten by kidscom who then donates the real dollars to the WHS. Kidscom is an eco-focused site with some team play focused on saving endangered species–pretty cool!

  10. Jan, I’m THRILLED you left a comment, this sounds right up my alley.

    I’ll take the time over the winter break to peruse the site and hope to connect thereafter as it would be a perfect fit for Eco Childs Play too! Back atcha soon. Meanwhile, feel free to reach me here: amy at shapingyouth dot org.

    Happy Holidays from the hounds, humans, ducks, wildlife, fish, and assorted critters here at my island outpost in the S.F. Bay area that people jokingly call ‘Dr. Doolittle’ hub ‘west’ πŸ™‚

    Thanks again, Amy

  11. Interesting article here, well written and much to think about.

  12. Great list! I find the “green” factor in all this very interesting.

  13. everyone should Go Green so that we can help the environment.~~:

  14. everything should be green these days, let us help mother earth.*,

  15. I really loved this game, but it closed down πŸ™

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