Project Based Learning works. A project that your students are excited about works better. A project that allows the students to build levels of abstract and complex concepts upon a stable scaffold is even better. And a project with a robust scaffold that can address the true complexities of a scientific system is something that many scientists would discuss with your students… and something that would generate untold number of questions from your students.
Sounds too good to be true, I realize. But I have worked with five classes of high school students who created materials related to video game design: paper and pen design documents, three-dimensional and two dimensional computer generated models and two dimensional video games. The production of any of these provides a scaffold for a project that holds the student’s interests and motivates them to add to it. Their design document or video game plan tethers a world of abstract concepts and esoteric facts to a story that they wrote. So the concepts and facts are automatically related to their frame of view and level of understanding.
I am collaborating with professors at George Mason University. Professors Kevin Clack and Kim Sheridan run a computer programming class. They are interested in helping high school students feel competent in STEM fields. They asked me to be their high school programming student’s “Client.” I asked the students to create a Neurological Immune Attack game for me. The game should focus on one of four molecular pathways that are core to Neurology.
Here is our reference:
Students Designing Video Games about Immunology: Insights for Science Learning
Neda Khalili, Kimberly Sheridan, Asia Williams, Kevin Clark, Melanie Stegman
Computers in the Schools
Volume 28, Issue 3 pp. 228-240 | DOI: 10.1080/07380569.2011.594988
Find GameMaker Windows/Mac/Linux here! http://www.yoyogames.com/gamemaker
Find a scientist: www.nationallabnetwork.org The National Lab Network is a place where you can find an expert to come to your classroom.