Monday, August 13 • 11:00am - 11:50am
Using Games and Game Development to Teach Difficult Ecosystem Concepts: A Case for Econauts

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Ecosystems are complex and dynamic systems that learners often experience as simplified, static snapshots in classrooms and curriculum. Simplifications too often remove the richness that makes them so challenging and yet compelling to study. Econauts immerses players in a rich environment, making difficult-to-observe ecological phenomena visible in a living landscape that players explore and examine to explore the relationships between choices that humans make and their ecological consequences.
In Econauts players learn to:
Identify time lags
Describe relationships among multiple drivers
Explain connections between land cover and land use and ecosystem response
Predict trophic cascades
Identify costs and benefits of different land use decisions
These difficult to teach concepts are often taught by tables, graphs and case studies, sometimes combined with one-time field trips. We have implemented Econauts in a variety of teaching and learning contexts in classrooms and in beyond classroom learning experiences for students and teachers grades 5-12. We have found that many students change in game strategy to limit environmental damage, some when they first see evidence of an algae bloom, most after a fish kill. About half of post-game play maps attempt to make the maps more ‘realistic’ and about half attempt to change the difficulty of the game play. High school students using Econauts within an ecology curriculum were more accurately able to identify, describe and explain scientific models compared to students in similar ecology curriculum absent Econauts.

avatar for Robert Bohanan

Robert Bohanan

Outreach Program Manager, WISCIENCE

Monday August 13, 2018 11:00am - 11:50am
Northwoods A

Attendees (8)