Teaching Science Through Video Game Design

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 a link to our work on NSF page.

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.

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2 thoughts on “Teaching Science Through Video Game Design

    1. melanie Post author

      Thank you very much! NSTA Science Rocks was such a great way to tell so many youngsters about being a scientist. Thanks for sharing our pages.

      Reply

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