Children on MiniMonos Show Adults How Sustainability Is Done
I first met Melissa Clark-Reynolds, the CEO of MiniMonos, online. We connected through a shared love of the environment and children, as we followed one another’s “tweets”. Dedicated and deeply generous, Melissa has poured her love and values into developing the children’s website MiniMonos, a place where she hopes that children will learn and share ideas about sustainability, generosity, and caring for one another, all while having fun together.
An eco-friendly children’s virtual world, MiniMonos is underpinned by the values of sustainability, friendship, and generosity. The children assume monkey avatars and play on a virtual island, where caring for their environment forms an intrinsic part of the experience. Their in-world living treehouses require nourishment and care, including recycling to keep their treehouse tidy, and capturing clouds to power their tree’s wind turbine.
The appealing games across MiniMonos Island carry underlying cooperative and eco-themes, rewarding the children for such activities as cleaning up a lagoon, using strategy, and sorting recyclables accurately.
As a mom, I hold the values supported by MiniMonos dear to my heart. And while I have the usual mom concerns about how my child spends time online, I do believe online interaction has a place in a balanced childhood. Internet play is ideal when it enhances a child’s skills in participating, creating, cooperating, and having fun. To this end, I always check a site my child interacts with to ensure it engages his interest, has sound values and messages, sparks his creativity, and facilitates his innate generosity. Ultimately, I look for a place where he feels he belongs.
As part of the MiniMonos team, it has been a sheer delight to discover how the children actively make MiniMonos a place of their own, filling it with their ideas, creativity, and passion. Every day the children inspire us with their passion for caring about the environment and their generosity towards one another. They’re having fun but they’re also demonstrating the importance of action beyond words.
Take Percy, who, on his own initiative and with his own pocket money, ran an eco-themed artwork competition. Or Emini, who picked up over 1,800 cigarette butts from her local beach. Indeed, many of the members dedicate themselves to regularly recycling or cleaning away trash from natural places.
The children support initiatives such as Earth Hour, and worthy causes like providing clean drinking water for fellow children in India. They have also voted for an orangutan adoptee, and now they all feel they have a stake in caring for her!
Creatively, we’ve seen amazing artwork competitions initiated by the children and a number of members have created their own blogs or become “moggers” — monkey bloggers — on the MiniMonos Go Bananas blog. These are wonderful ways for sharing their writing and journalistic skills with each other.
Another delightful evolution on MiniMonos is the children’s own responsiveness and willingness to moderate behavior they don’t see as appropriate for their community. While the site has full-time moderation, regular players will take it upon themselves to dampen any negative behavior, reacting with compassion and devotion to upholding the site’s values of generosity and fun. Dozens of children have become mini-monkey-moderators, a role that recognizes their dedicated attentiveness to others playing in this virtual world.
Of the 20,000 registered members on MiniMonos, children like these are the rule, not the exception. Their extraordinary spirits have governed the way the site gets developed. They’re our most vigorous testers and our most vocally constructive critics, and we’re privileged to learn from them every day.
MiniMonos doesn’t pretend to have all the answers to creating an ideal virtual world for children; instead, we strive to live up to the children’s own standards of sustainability, generosity, community, and fun. And if our future is in the hands of these children, I feel optimistic about these fantastic minds shaping a future that is truly sustainable.
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)
Tepper is the adult community coordinator Mini Monos.