Preliminary Results

Killer Snails: Assassins of the Sea aims to teach players about the cutting edge properties of the venom held within these seemingly ambiguous marine creatures. During game play, information is revealed that engages players around four domains of knowledge which include: (1) classification of venomous snails, (2) the food chain, (3) biodiversity, and (4) scientific inquiry. With no requisite prior knowledge, players follow a scientifically accurate process of cultivating their killer snails in an effort to harvest their venomous peptides by protecting them from starvation, playing instants like tsunami’s that impact the snails’ environments, engaging in scientific research to move the field, and the player, forward in their quest to identify the winning peptide solution.

Assassins of the Sea meets the global contexts found in the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum which foster inquiry learning across interdisciplinary domains as well as Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS). During game play, learners meet the two global contexts of scientific and technical innovation as well as globalization and sustainability as they learn about the world in which they live as well as the interconnectedness of environments. The unique nature of the development process of Assassins of the Sea allowed us to vet many of the educational objectives during playtesting with middle school students at the AMNH.

The quantitative results of our initial assessments indicate that students are indeed gaining impressive content knowledge about the classification of these marine creatures, the dynamics of their food chain, aspects of biodiversity, as well as the scientific inquiry that fuels discovery. During this week-long camp students learned content knowledge in a typical classroom setting in the morning and engaged in game play around that same content in the afternoon. To assess learning, students were questioned via Kahoot! before and after game play each day with a different area of content as the objective each day. Students demonstrated an 11.5% increase in content knowledge in pre-post playing of the game during the second day of game camp and an impressive 12.5% increase in content knowledge between the pre-post game play on day three.

Qualitative assessments collected during game play also show impressive knowledge gains through engaging with the game. Through the use of concept maps, we’ve documented the evolving knowledge of players as they engage with the science content during game play. Using coggle, a digital mind-mapping program, each student created their own unique mind-map of building it day by day, continuously revised and reiterated their understanding throughout a week-long game camp. Evaluating these mind maps it became clear that while quantitative gains in content knowledge were demonstrated by digital check-ins, increasingly complex mind-maps created by our players show qualitative shifts in understanding as well. For instance, on day one one student began concept mapping with taxonomy as the central tenet to their mind-map. However, by day three cone snails had taken center stage and concepts of reproduction, ecosystems, and other invertebrate became branches of knowledge to supplement their understanding of the cone snails.

1. Image of mind map pre-game play    

2. Image of mind map post-game play

Killer Snails: Assassins of the Sea has now been play tested across varying age groups, from scientists to teachers, and across the globe. What we’ve seen during play testing is what we’ve seen during game development: this game has the potential to disrupt the serious games market by provide a platform to teach cutting edge science content in a fast paced and engaging deck-building game.

 

Professional Development Offerings

An interactive professional development experience engages educators in the application of game based learning to teach four themes of knowledge acquired during game play, which include: classification of deadly cone snails, inquiry into the food chain that supports these venomous creatures, issues of biodiversity in marine environments worldwide, and scientific inquiry that supports the discovery of novel medications and biomedical application of these curious creatures.

Our program builds on the Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS) to include the global contexts found in the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum which foster inquiry learning across interdisciplinary domains. During game play, learners meet the two global contexts of scientific and technical innovation as well as globalization and sustainability as they learn about the world in which they live as well as the interconnectedness of environments.

Participants in the workshop will leave with the following NGSS and IB aligned science curriculum supplements:  

  • a school set of the board game Killer Snails: Assassins of the Sea,

  • a set of guided questions to use over four subsequent rounds of game play and

  • a standards aligned rubric of feedback to ascertain students’ growing comprehension of the content.