IML, Dornsife, NASA Collaboration
The IML is pleased to announce a new collaboration with colleagues in the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences to help create the education and public outreach component for a project funded by NASA. Specifically, the IML is going to create an interactive virtual model of life deep underground designed specifically for students in 6th grade. We want to visualize what life for microorganisms would be like at a wide range of terrestrial and extraterrestrial subsurface conditions.
This virtual model will include a gaming element. At the start of the experience, players will have the option to be a subsurface microorganism or a scientific investigator. As a microbe, players will move through cracks, fissures, and pore spaces deep below the Earth’s surface, encountering dissolved gases, dilute aqueous solutes, organic matter, mineral surfaces, and other microbes. They will navigate through extreme conditions, including those of temperature, pressure, acidity, radiation and energy limitations, and they will begin to recognize what characterizes life in this context.
As a scientific investigator, players will encounter and manipulate simulations of the tools of the research team. They will be working from the deck of a ship, on a continental drill rig, in a mine, or in a NASA mission control room drilling deep down into the Earth’s surface beneath the continents and oceans or off of a capable rover on Mars (or other rocky planet). In all cases, the emphasis for the experience will be on exploration, and the game will include incentives for continued investigation that are aligned with content standards for sixth grade.
The IML joins a national movement in recognizing that learning through games is incredibly powerful. Indeed, game-based learning has gained considerable traction since 2003, when James Gee described the impact of game play on cognitive development in his groundbreaking book, What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. Proponents of game-based learning point to its role in supporting collaboration, problem-solving, and communication, the 21st century competencies needed by American students outlined by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in late 2010 in the National Education Technology Plan.