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​An app that connects children to nature through gamification.

My Role


Product Design

Interaction Design

Visual Design


Usability Testing


May 2020 - July 2020

9 Weeks


Only Me


Adobe XD

Adobe Illustrator



Within the space of a few decades, the way children understand and experience nature has changed radically. Today, kids are aware of the global threats to the environment —but their physical contact, their intimacy with nature, is fading. Many children has developed Nature-Deficit Disorder.

Nature-Deficit Disorder

“The idea that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors, and the belief that this change results in a wide range of behavioral problems.” -- Wikipedia


8.2 h/week



4 h/week

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Compared to kids in the past who spent most of their time playing outdoors, today's children spend their free time with electronic screens and tutoring classes.

Research found that, in China, on average, children were playing outside for just over 4 hours a week, compared to 8.2 hours a week when the adults questioned were children.

Problems with Nature-Deficit Disorder

1. The Obesity Rates of children aged 6 to 17 has tripled in 10 years, reaching 53 million, according to the fourth Nutrition and Health Survey report of China.

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​2. Children who developed Myopia spent an average of 8 hours outside per week, compared with nearly 13 hours among non-myopic children.

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3. Study finds that life’s stressful events appear not to cause as much Psychological Distress in children who live in high-nature conditions compared with children who live in low-nature conditions

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How might we help and encourage children in China reconnect to nature?



Why do children in China don't have access to nature?

Through various research methods, I found that the 4 key issues are heavy school work, location, parenting styles, and parents' concerns on safety.


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Through field observation, I found that Shenzhen is a young city that built around economic developments, not suitable for children and the elderly to live:

  • Residential areas  lack supporting greenery and parks

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A residential area in the Futian District surrounded by traffic roads and commercial areas

  • School are often built at places that are convenient for transportation, which at the same time can be dangerous for kids due to high traffic

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Kids try to across the road after school

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Kids playing in a plaza with almost no nature's presence

  • The commercial and tech districts cover a large area, and most of the greening is designed in conjunction with these districts

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Shenzhen's tech hub surrounded by parks and golf courses


At the same time, I posted a survey and received 55 valid responses, from which I found that only 30% of the families don't have seniors involved in taking care of children.

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  • Financial stress

  • Inflexible work schedule

  • Doesn't trust babysitters


  • elders hard to keep up physically and mentally

  • kids in poor physical conditions


To parents, the fears of strangers, traffic, and unsanitary conditions are the most crucial factors to consider, and most parents didn't realize the importance of nature to children.

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I created three personas based on my interviewees’ real stories and feelings to help me better understand their frustrations and build empathy.

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So, what kind of experience in nature do kids need?

According to North America Association for Environmental Education, there are three vital attributes for the best nature play.

The right kind of place

The right kind of re-play

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The right kind of play



I came up with and sketched more than 20 ideas in total based on the accumulation of the research and insights. Then I started to group ideas that share some similarities.

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After grouping the ideas that had similar attributes and themes, I identified that most of my ideas primarily fell into the areas of:

- unstructured/high tech - fidget toys, parent-child game
- structured/high tech

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Design Principles

With the goal of educating, the design aims to provide an experience of unstructured plays in a structured area. In other words, the design allows students to have the freedom of learning through unstructured plays while in a safe environment.

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Principle 1 - Incorporation of Life Science Curriculum

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Week 1 - Different types of plants

children will learn to identify

a few different types of flowers and trees including deciduous and evergreen trees.

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Week 3 & 4 - Needs of a plant

children will learn to identify a few

different types of flowers and trees

including deciduous and evergreen trees.

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Week 2 - Parts of a plant

children will learn the different parts of

a plant including leaves, flowers, fruit,

seeds, roots, bulb, trunk, branches and stem.

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Week 4 - Pollination materials

children explore how plants reproduce

including seed dispersal and pollination,

and learn about photosynthesis.

Principle 2 - Play in a safe environment

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GPS & Location Sharing

Students' locations are shared with

parents and teachers.

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Controlled Map Area

The app's map only displays the space inside Huanggang Park, which reduces students' risk of leaving Huanggang Park without noticing.

Principle 3 - An Easy to Reach Location

Field Research - Shenzhen Huanggang Park

I went to Shenzhen Huanggang Park and conducted a field research.
Through interviews and observations, I found that Shenzhen Huanggang Park is a perfect place to host the activity for children.

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Principle 4 - Play in nature in an explorative way

"Active learning" is a difficult thing for students, especially when learning those dull theoretical knowledge in school. Although children like to play games, both entertainment games and serious games cannot provide satisfactory solutions due to various limitations.

Hence, I wanted to take the approach to design gamification by understanding the Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation Theory.

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User Scenario - student

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Service Blueprint

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Mobile Iteration

Flow A: Enter the Activity

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Flow B: During Activity

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Flow C: After Activity

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A new understanding of Gamification Design

Game design not only means fun but also means the deconstruction of redesign of the original process, so that the process is both efficient and enjoyable for users.

User Testing

My design has not yet been tested by users, so there might be flows and functions that need to be improved.

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