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Toxic Release! The role of educational games in teaching and learning about hazardous pollution


The compounding elements of toxic releases make teaching and learning about them difficult. For example, toxic releases have multifarious source/sink dynamics, high-stakes risk profiles, complex timelines, and passionate stakeholders with conflicting concerns and objectives. Furthermore, the environmental and health-related impacts of hazardous releases are difficult to pin down and challenging for scientists to communicate to stakeholders. As a result, the management of toxic releases and associated processes of risk reduction and policy development are difficult to explore in conventional classroom settings. Toxic Release is a high-touch educational game created by students and faculty at SUNY Plattsburgh. The simulation is designed to overcome barriers to teaching and learning about toxics and environmental governance. The project is supported by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) University Challenge, an outreach program intended to spur creative research and education about the threats posed by hazardous pollutants. This brief pedagogical report outlines the history and details of the TRI, describes EPA’s TRI University Challenge program, and outlines the learning objectives of Toxic Release as well as preliminary observations about the project’s outcomes.

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“The views, conclusions, and opinions expressed in this paper are entirely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Environmental Protection Agency nor does mention of any chemical substance or product, commercial, or otherwise constitute Agency endorsement or recommendation for use.”

To learn more about Toxic Release

To learn more about how you can obtain a Toxic Release game kit, learn to facilitate the simulation or host a game session please contact Curt Gervich at

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Correspondence to Curt D. Gervich.

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Evans, Eudene, Fonzone, Barbencena, Hastings, Whitney, Fernandez are student authors.

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Gervich, C.D., Briere, C., Lopez, N. et al. Toxic Release! The role of educational games in teaching and learning about hazardous pollution. J Environ Stud Sci 6, 589–596 (2016).

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  • Toxics release inventory
  • Educational games
  • Educational simulations
  • Environmental policy
  • Environmental governance