Play is part of design thinking!
Rochester Museum and Science Center-Science on a Sphere ExhibitOur team is in the process of designing the next several units of game-based curriculum for our Martha Madison series, which we are continuing to develop with support from the National Science Foundation. For those of you who haven’t yet met Martha, she is a plucky meerkat scientist who invites middle school students to learn about science through problem solving adventures.
As part of our design process we often play with science concepts ourselves. It isn’t uncommon to see sketches on white boards, paper cut-outs and bits of lab equipment all around our office, not to mention the growing pile of magnetic toys in our development lab. Since we think about play and want our students to be really immersed in science, we decided that it was time for a field trip to spark our design thinking!
Where to go? Of course, the Rochester Museum and Science Center. (If you haven’t seen their Science on a Sphere exhibit or the new exhibit on light, you should check it out!) Our design team includes people who are all passionate about learning but bring specific talents to the mix. Bob is our lead illustrator/animator. Brian is our producer who keeps us honest about market focus and making sure that we don’t design the fun out of things. Anne has point on learning design and Kyle is a rock star programmer and game designer! And we bring lovable professor types who make sure our science is right! Special thanks to Drs. Uzelmeier and Debesis and Chief Program Officer Menelly for answering all of our science questions. This team works together to bring their respective experiences and expertise to our design process and so it seemed only fitting that we should all get to play together with science to get inspiration for Martha’s next adventures.
We see games and opportunities to play wherever we go! We spent a lot of time playing with Bernoulli, Newton, a beach ball and a shopvac in reverse mode. Who knew?! We came up with literally dozens of variations of games. Maybe we will pull something together for our next lunch and learn! Stop in on Friday when you are in Rochester, we grill in the summer.
After our field trip, we spent some time debriefing on what we learned about learning from our experience that day. We were very aware of how we interacted with the hands-on exhibits, when we opted to read the (very helpful) text and when we were hesitant to try new things. Above all, this helped us think about how to extend/leverage the digital medium. We also thought about how we could deepen the experience of science for students in the digital medium. Where could we bring them that they can’t go in the physical world? Through time? Through space? Through the infinitely large or small? All of this informs and reinforces our own design principles, which we employ when designing our games and when we are designing learning experiences for our clients. Hmmm…. what adventures will Martha find to explore, electricity, magnetism, and maybe even space?