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Thu Apr 9, 2015, 10:26 AM

Game on! Teaching science with games

The average U.S. student has played roughly 10,000 hours of games by the end of high school – only a little less time than the hours spent in school.

We think of school as a place where students must stop playing, so that they can start learning. But why do these pursuits have to be mutually exclusive? I have used games in my classroom for many years now with great success. One game I’ve played with my middle school chemistry students is called Ion: A Compound Building Game, which we are hoping to publish via a crowd-funding campaign that started today (April 8, 2015) via Kickstarter.com. Read what I have to say here, or visit our Kickstarter campaign, if you agree that game-playing has the potential to teach kids science.

My goal as an educator is to show my students why the world around us is so fascinating. Since I was a young man, I have been captivated with the natural world and how everything in it proceeds. Nature is one massive biological and chemical symphony played out by a vast orchestra composed of countless natural processes.

One thing worries me … My students know they ought to be knowledgeable and competent in the sciences; ask any of them! They know the long-term benefits of being educated in chemistry, biology and physics, and the careers that can follow.

But here’s the problem – most don’t see themselves pursuing these subjects much further than what is required of them. Almost all of them wish they were ‘better at’ those subjects, but seem to be too intimidated to invest much more thought than that.

And both politicians and educators are trying to remedy this imbalance. The U.S. spends a lot of money promoting STEM competency in an effort to engage students in high-value science careers. A Google search for STEM Initiative will show you a stunning number of worthy projects currently underway to re-ignite the interest of the next generation in the applied sciences.

But as one who spends a great deal of time with youth, thinking about the challenges they face, I see a different side of the issue.


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