The Fun of Exploring with Science Games – Science Games as Effective Teaching Tools

Science in the real world is fascinating. It is a subject of exploration and discovery. Most science classrooms fail to capture this aspect of the subject. Science in the classroom is more about memorizing theories and conducting controlled, prescribed experiments. Instead of teaching students to think scientifically and learn through exploration, science classes teach students what other scientists discovered through their investigations.

Science games, on the other hand, promote several scientific attitudes. They require a certain amount of curiosity, investigation and trial-and-error in order to be solved. And without exception, the search for the correct solution is as engrossing as finding the solution is exciting. Science games, therefore, lend themselves naturally to being science teaching tools. As Scot Osterweil, research director of MIT’s Education Arcade puts it, “As game designers, we’re convinced that game playing is a lot like science: There is problem-solving, exploration, collaboration, hypothesizing, testing and learning from your failures.” This is certainly not a lone sentiment, for many of the best science games are produced by leading scientific research organizations.

Here are some of the main reasons that science is more exciting in fun science games:

1. The game is like a giant science lab

For most students, spending time in the science lab is a lot more enjoyable than spending time reading the science textbook. However, even the school science lab has its limitations. The experiments are safe and controlled, and can only be conducted with the available materials. Online science games couldn’t be more different. These games are like giant science labs where nothing is off-limits. Players can experiment with dangerous chemicals, outer space missions and even microorganisms in the human body. On a platform where anything is possible and mistakes are not dangerous, children can dare to think big and experiment with crazy ideas. This makes it great for exploration of the scientific world and subsequently the learning of new concepts.

2. Children are learning without realizing it

Children often go to the science classroom expecting to be uninterested in the lesson. This invariably affects the way children experience the class. On the other hand, when kids are playing a science game, they’re having a great time. They are motivated to pay attention to the game and its workings in order to learn how to win. With science games, this translates to learning scientific concepts. Take physics games, for example. Children are expected to accomplish tasks like building bridges, stacking objects and guiding projectiles by paying attention to the various forces acting on the objects in question. In doing so, players are subconsciously learning about concepts like gravity, balance and the interplay of various forces. When these concepts are later discussed in the classroom, kids who have had the chance to experiment with them in science games are better equipped to understand the science lessons involving those topics.

3. The games are designed around fun themes

Who doesn’t enjoy watching crime-scene investigation shows like Bones? The show may be chock-full of science, but kids don’t mind that kind of science.

science games

Photo by TJOwens

Science that involves problem-solving and investigation appeals to kids of all ages. So does outer space exploration and the working of the human body. Science games are designed to allow kids to explore this more exciting side of the subject. Kids are put in fun roles that require them to use their scientific knowledge and skills to solve a difficult problem. The popular science mystery game “Vanished” actually required players to conduct investigations and collect scientific information from their real-world surroundings in order to solve the online mystery. Science games produced by NASA allow kids to take on the role of an outer space explorer. By their very nature, science games are designed to engage kids and keep them hooked on to the challenge until they successfully complete the game.

The fun of exploring scientific concepts through science games has led scientists and educators to actively explore gaming as a viable science teaching tool. There are already many science games that are popularly used as a teaching supplement in science classrooms, and we can hope to see many more high quality science games being produced in the near future.

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I am an assistant teacher and my aim is to curate unique learning tips and techniques customized towards kids.

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