Monday, March 28, 2011

Using Games to Teach Ocean Awareness

This week I read "Using Games to Teach Ocean Awareness" by Lisa Hill, included in the March/April 2011 issue of "Learning and Leading with Technology."  In the article, Hill describes two particular games that are designed for students in science classes to learn more about coastal and ocean ecosystems.  The games are a joint project with NOAA's Ocean Service Education, National Marine Fisheries, National Estuarine Research Reserve System and the Montgomery College's Computer Game and Simulation Program.

The first game she describes is call "Where the River Meets the Sea."  The game is centered around a character named Oscar the Otter who is sad because his estuary home is dying.  The user is tasked with helping him to save it by solving actual problems facing coastal estuaries such as water pollution and marine debris.  Hill says the game "helps students build skills and raise their awareness of the importance of estuaries, water quality, tides and local support to protect estuaries" (Hill 2011, p. 32)

The second game described in the article is called "Sea Turtles and the Quest to Nest."  This game lets students play six minigames in which they learn about coastal habitats, the food chain and some issues that are threatening sea turtles.  According to Hill, "by playing these environmental games, middle school students evaluate, explore and engage in making decisions that increase their awareness and understanding of coastal and ocean issues" (Hill 2011, p. 33).

Games such as these seem to be a fun and entertaining way to learn about some of the threats facing coastal and ocean ecosystems and how we can help improve the conditions of these areas.  Students are taught how to help reduce pollution and raise awareness about these issues under the guise of playing a game.  Any time we can reach students through the use of games, we are more likely to get the message across without them losing focus or interest.  I think these games are a good example of how education and entertainment can go hand in hand.

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