Our Special Island
- Second Muse
- Dept. of Foreign Affairs & Trade
Motu Ta’e’iloa (Our Special Island) is an educational, play-based app designed for young children, aged 6-7, in Tonga. It aims to help address significant health issues in Tonga caused by poor eating choices. The app, funded by DFAT, features distinctly Tongan design and characters, encourages positive attitudes among children to eating healthy food, and aims to increase awareness of local foods.
It allows children to grow and catch their own ingredients, and then create meals using traditional recipes with guidance from Maui-Kisikisi. After making a meal, children enjoy sharing the food and drink with their onscreen friends Kelela and Pulotu.
Our design acknowledges:
the importance of open-ended and goal-directed play for children’s learning – in the app, children gather food in any order they wish and then choose a recipe to make
the appeal of touch-screen devices to children and the value of collaboration – eg, multi-touch functionality allows multiple children to interact simultaneously
the affordances of a multimodal approach that uses visuals, including animation; audio, including sfx, music, song and voice-overs; and a range of touch interactions
the need for age- and culturally appropriate content – throughout production, we sought advice from Tongan stakeholders to ensure appropriateness.
The app was used in a 6-week trial in 11 Tongan primary schools. Before and after the trial, baseline and exit surveys were conducted with participating children to collect data on their understanding of healthy food and their attitudes towards it. Initial data analysis is extremely positive. For example, before using the app only 3% of children in the trial population correctly identified the healthy foods in a set of healthy and unhealthy options; whereas post-trial, 81% correctly identified healthy foods. Furthermore, post-trial 94% listed a healthy food as a favourite, whereas pre-trial almost 40% children listed unhealthy options as favourites.
While Millipede created the overall app design, content was co-designed with input from a wide range of stakeholders including children, teachers, parents, health professionals, educationalists, community members, and DFAT staff, with voice-overs and songs being recorded with Tongan children. This collaborative approach is integral to the app’s success, particularly for engaging children and teachers, who are thrilled with the ‘all-Tongan’ content. Similarly, the inclusive, child-led, multimodal design has inspired many teachers in the trial to value and integrate these approaches into off-screen activities – for example, implementing classroom cooking sessions where children make healthy recipes from the app.
Our design innovation was to deliver a play-based app, which engaged young Tongan children in fun, culturally appropriate, multimodal learning experiences, to help inspire attitudinal change towards food. Children’s extraordinary levels of engagement, plus the positive data gained from the post-trial surveys, indicate the success of this approach. Key stakeholders in the aid, health and education sectors have also praised the innovative ‘hands-on’ approach, and its power for conveying important health messages that will resonate with children into the future. Our next aim, pending funding, is to expand the Tongan rollout, and create versions for other Pacific countries.
Other features include:
The application of user-led design principles, which support our belief that children learn by doing, exploring and playing, not by directive approaches.
Teacher notes available in Tongan and English, providing suggestions for using the materials within a play-based context. Workshops were also held to give educators additional support.
Supporting materials, including food flashcards, worksheets, a board game that expands the concepts developed in the app, and posters promoting healthy food and drinks.
Careful inclusion of app activities that could be transferred to offscreen contexts to promote further engagement (eg, fishing, gardening and food preparation activities).