Science Learning: A Thrilling Detective Story

By Katie Ash — May 05, 2008 1 min read
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This commentary on starts with (for me at least) a counterintuitive sentence: “Kids love science.” The author of the article, Ellen V. Futter, goes on to talk about how and why students turn away from science as they get to middle and high school. She presents suggestions for how educators can help fuel kids’ enthusiasm for science and encourage them to continue studying science as they get older. One of the suggestions she made particularly hit home for me. She says:

K-12 teachers should be empowered to adopt hands-on, inquiry-based teaching methods that present science as a thrilling detective story, rather than a collection of facts and formulas.

At the risk of shameless self-promotion here, I’m going to point you now to a story I just finished for Digital Directions about using computer games to teach science. The point that Futter makes above is one that many of the educators I spoke with for this story agreed with. Science lends itself very easily to a storyline, especially a detective storyline, which in turn makes it a perfect match for computer and video games, which are often driven by those exact elements of mystery and discovery. Although there are kinks to be worked out as far as getting the games to work and lining the material up with curriculum, teachers who used computer games in the classroom did observe a noticeable increase in the level of engagement of their students, and research has verified those observations.

What do you think? Do you or other teachers in your school use computer games in class? Do you find them to be an effective way of teaching, or have you run into too many problems to make them worthwhile?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Motivation Matters blog.