The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Field Day Lab released a complex educational video game “Wake: Tales from the Aqualab” last week for game-based learning, according to the UW-Madison School of Education.
“Wake” is a life-sciences focused game for middle and high school students. The game centers around new ocean floor scientists with over 50 different challenges, dozens of ecosystems to explore and hundreds of species to study. The idea of not only “Wake” but Field Day Lab itself is to have additional educational tools to immerse students with different subject interests.
“Games offer a way to experience complex systems without having to understand it first,” Sarah Gagnon, the creative director at Field Day Lab, said. “I hope that kids feel full of wonder at the world and excitement that there are things they can do to help these ecosystems repair and recover from ecological damage. We want kids to be full of wonder.”
Field Day is a research lab and design studio on the UW-Madison campus, according to Gagnon. Lab participants work with teachers through a fellowship program, along with student interns. Jobs range from game producers to engineers, education specialists, creative directors, game designers, artists and user interface designers. “Wake” has garnered 7,000 plays around the country per month, according to Gagnon.
“When we got the grant to work on ‘Wake: Tales from the Aqualab,’ it was intense. Most of our other games were made to be played in one to two class periods,” Gagnon told The Daily Cardinal. “This game includes 10 hours of content. It was a huge undertaking.”
The game intends to engage students in ways that work best for them. It includes experiments and a more captivating way of showing the scientific method. Students will not just learn the material, but actually be doing it, according to Gagnon. This can reach students who may not just learn from textbooks alone.
“We feel that games do something unique in the classroom, which is to allow kids to take on the role of a professional — in this case, a professional scientist,” Gagnon said. “They can also support kids who have a hard time understanding certain topics, which could make certain fields open to them that would otherwise be impossible to access.”
As the game progresses, the harder the experiments get. Tasks can involve collecting certain oceanic species and taking them to the lab for observation, according to the School of Education. Students in the game will eventually conduct experiments and create scientific models.
“Wake” also benefits those in Field Lab by showing them how effective their game is for learning by collecting data. Students can learn from the game, and teachers can determine what works best from their students based on performance.
“We feel like video games are a complicated space, but that is where a lot of kids are and I want to be where the kids are,” Gagnon said. “It’s all about science, but it’s more than that. It’s about the dreams of a young scientist — those she has while asleep and awake.”
The English version is released, but the Spanish translation will come out later this spring, according to Gagnon. If students want to join the Field Day Lab, you can apply on Field Day’s about me page.