Teachers can use the games as phenomena or puzzles for students to solve. With the antibiotic resistance game, encourage students to play it multiple times to try to figure out which ways of dosing antibiotics kill off the bacteria and which ways lead to more antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Using this information, students could create a set of rules about antibiotic use. Kids could even create their own public service announcement about why antibiotic misuse can lead to superbugs.Continue reading Show less
The Yard Games are free online simulations that help fifth- to eighth-grade students learn about important science systems. Kids play each interactive activity for 10 to 20 minutes and can learn about the carbon cycle, the water cycle, antibiotic resistance, waves, magnetism, earthquakes, and more. Students play right in their browsers without any downloads or logins.
Each game starts with a short cartoon that introduces the major concepts and the problem. Goofy characters continue to provide background information through short tutorials, which, with the right mindset, can play like a game. Some of the activities are single-player, and others allow kids to play against each other.
Wisconsin teachers teamed up with developers to design the Yard Games, hoping to make science systems easier to understand. This is particularly helpful since the Next Generation of Science Standards place an emphasis on systems and scale as cross-cutting concepts. In some games, such as The Carbon Cycle, tutorials are available to teach kids how to play. It is important that students read through this fine print, because crucial scientific rules are spelled out, such as that matter can't be created or destroyed. The Carbon Cycle scaffolds learning by first showing them how the carbon will move through the atmosphere as they play and then taking that support away, so students have to figure it out for themselves.
The games do not stand alone and will require additional support and coaching by a teacher. For example, students playing the Antibiotic Resistance game could click through it and make the assumption that the antibiotic itself is causing the mutations on individual bacteria, making them resistant. The Yard Games is missing a teacher's guide or support questions to ensure that these misconceptions don't happen. While the cartoon at the beginning presents an issue, such as the bacteria on their pizza, this storyline doesn't necessarily continue throughout the game. The Yard Games would be improved if the kids could feel as if they had solved a problem by playing the game.
Key Standards Supported
Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals’ probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment.
Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth’s materials and the flow of energy that drives this process.
Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth’s systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.
Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses results in changes in weather conditions.
Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.
From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and flow of energy into and out of organisms.
Matter and Its Interactions
Develop a model that predicts and describes changes in particle motion, temperature, and state of a pure substance when thermal energy is added or removed.
Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions
Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object’s motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object.
Ask questions about data to determine the factors that affect the strength of electric and magnetic forces.
Conduct an investigation and evaluate the experimental design to provide evidence that fields exist between objects exerting forces on each other even though the objects are not in contact.
Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer
Use mathematical representations to describe a simple model for waves that includes how the amplitude of a wave is related to the energy in a wave.
Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials.
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