8 Great Games That Pair Perfectly with Science and Engineering Practices

One of the three core dimensions of the NGSS, the SEPs support student- and inquiry-driven learning.

September 29, 2015
Tanner Higgin Director, Education Editorial Strategy
Common Sense Education


While the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) are just one of the three interwoven core “dimensions” that make up the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), the SEPs are the secret sauce. That’s because unlike the other two dimensions -- Disciplinary Core Ideas and Cross Cutting Concepts -- SEPs explicitly focus on the "how" rather than the "what," the doing rather than knowing. It's because of this that I think the SEPs are positioned to take science learning in bold new directions. 

SEPs are in line with the larger trend in education toward student- and inquiry-driven classroom activities that build skills and ways of thinking. These trends are baked into the burgeoning maker and coding movements as well as more established STEM/STEAM initiatives. Personally, though, I think there’s no better crossover than with game-based learning (GBL). I’ve said before that games are perfectly suited to NGSS, and I’m more confident than ever about this now that we’ve started tagging edtech tools for NGSS. Here’s the thing, though: While games can be great for all three NGSS dimensions, they’re at their best when used as platforms for science and engineering practice. 

Games ... are at their best when used as platforms for science and engineering practice.

To get you started weaving together SEPs and games, I’ve put together my own version of a food and wine pairing -- a great game matched with each of the eight SEPs. Of course, these are just a few recommendations, and each game could be used to meet many of the SEPs. That's why I’d love to hear about your own pairings. Let me know in the comments.

Developing and Using Models
Game: Universe Sandbox
Grades: 6-12  Platforms: PC  Price: $9.99


Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
Game: Extrasolar
Grades: 7-12  Platforms: Web  Price: Free, Optional Paid Upgrades


Analyzing and Interpreting Data
Game: Kerbal Space Program
Grades: 7-12  Platforms: PC, Mac  Price: $40.00


Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
Game: Hopscotch: School Edition
Grades: 4-9  Platforms: iPad  Price: $9.99


Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
Game: SimCityEDU
Grades: 5-8  Platforms: PC, Mac  Price: $35 per year and up


Engaging in Argument from Evidence
Game: Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy
Grades: 6-8  Platforms: iPad  Price: Free


Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
Game: Twine
Grades: 6-12  Platforms: PC, Mac  Price: Free


Asking Questions and Defining Problems
Game: Contraption Maker
Grades: 3-8 Platforms: PC, Mac Price: 6.99