The interest in games for teaching and learning of different subjects has grown for many years.
Games are powerful tools that can not only help to develop knowledge, but also to engage people of all ages in problem-solving. However, the benefit of using games as a playful and exploratory learning tool is still an open question in education research.
The Public Engagement Award from the Institute of Physics in Ireland has enabled my PhD supervisor Jessamyn Fairfield and I not only to develop an astronomy board game for conceptual understanding but also to immerse and engage the players with astronomy and physics in different settings.
Within this game, we aimed for the integration of a mathematics, astronomy and physics curriculum that could be easily adapted to target different levels of education and skills. The game consists of a card-playing tabletop game in which players roll to move, check to see if they landed on a space with instructions, and then resolve it.
There are two types of question cards with questions related to physics concepts, with various degree of difficulty. The game also has a third card called “Who am I?”, which has pictures of various scientists, researchers and astronomers who contributed to the development of astronomy. And the board itself is designed to be visually appealing which helps players to connect to the information in the game.
So far, more than 300 children and adults have played the game, and 30 copies of it have been distributed to different groups in Ireland. During July I was invited to exhibit the game at two different events – InspireFest Family Fringe and Dublin Maker. Children of all ages and adults enjoyed learning physics concepts while playing as it created an engaging, playful and challenging atmosphere. Also, I was really excited to see that the game elements, discussions, and problem-solving allowed players to think and apply their previous knowledge about astronomy while playing the game.
Following these exhibitions, I’m focusing on the pilot trial of the game in formal education environments across Ireland from September until November. All research findings and the game will be available from next year, which I hope will encourage other researchers and teachers to also investigate and include more games in physics classes.
- Our Public Engagement Grant Scheme provides up to £2,000 to individuals and organisations running physics-based events and activities in the UK and Ireland. The next round opens in September 2017. If you would like to be notified please email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be added to the mailing list