Minecraft video game using virtual Preston streets to teach young people about flooding

Credit: Microsoft

A new way of teaching children about climate change and the risk of flooding is being trialled in Lancashire, using video games.

The popular Minecraft game has had a transformation - with Preston being turning into a virtual world where children can learn about flood risk management, as well as raising awareness of careers in civil engineering

Preston's bandstand transformed into a virtual world Credit: Microsoft

It is being billed as a "unique and immersive virtual learning experience" and is part of a collaboration between the Environment Agency and Microsoft.

The game - called 'Rivercraft' sees Preston recreated into a new digital world.

It is based on the £54.7m flood risk management scheme in Preston and South Ribble, and consists of three games.

It is the first time flood mitigation has been developed in Minecraft. 

The bridge over the river Ribble in Preston recreated into a digital world Credit: Microsoft

The in-game Preston world is the first activity of its kind that uses Artificial Intelligence to map a region and convert it into an interactive Minecraft map.

The games will be available globally and in multiple languages to be used in educational and home environments.

Students from Archbishop Temple School in Preston are amongst the first in the world to try out this unique and immersive virtual experience, aimed at introducing the next generation of environmental champions to the world of flood risk management.

Pupils from Archbishop Temple school in Preston have been taking part in the unique and immersive virtual learning experience Credit: Environment Agency/Microsoft

Andy Brown, Flood Risk Manager for the Environment Agency, said: “This is an amazing opportunity for students and a project we are proud to be a part of.

"Not only will young people learn about a major flooding scheme in the UK, but they will also discover more about climate change, the environment, flooding and the types of roles available for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Introducing the next generation to the brilliant career opportunities we have here at the Environment Agency is key if we are to deliver our vital flood and coastal defence projects.

"This includes the Preston and South Ribble Scheme, which will directly reduce flood risk to 4,700 homes and businesses.

“We want to help everyone discover their drive, passion and enthusiasm for the environment and the jobs available within that sector. We can’t wait to see Rivercraft and the Preston world brought to life across the globe.”

Here's Andy Brown talking about it:

Here's Pete Miles from the Environment Agency talking to Granada Reports about the new game:

Justin Edwards, Director of Learning Programmes, Minecraft, said: “We know that people around the world love Minecraft, and so it is really rewarding for us to see Minecraft encouraging students to talk about and engage with environmental issues.

“The game provides an opportunity not just to get to know the flooding scheme in Preston and South Ribble, but also understand real world impact in a safe and fun way.

"The game also shows how communities are impacted, not just individuals.

"We’re committed to making a better world through the power of play and this project is at the forefront of that vision.”

Credit: Microsoft Education UK

The video game is based on the flood defence work currently underway in Preson.

The scheme started in October 2021 and vthe Environment Agency say it will directly reduce flood risk to 4,700 homes and businesses from Preston Riversway up towards the M6 and Higher Walton.

The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is contributing £6.525M towards the scheme and funding has been secured from multiple sources including the Department for Education.

Construction of the scheme is due to be completed by summer 2023.

Work also continues on the design of the defences for the later stages of the scheme in Walton-le-Dale, Frenchwood and Higher Walton.