Ball State University students develop a video game to educate elementary students

Topics: Immersive Learning, College of Sciences and Humanities, College of Architecture and Planning

February 5, 2007

Ball State students participating in an immersive learning project created an educational video game that teaches elementary students to protect and reclaim natural environments.

The student-driven team developed the game through Ball State's Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry to supplement the traditional classroom experience and provide an opportunity for elementary-aged children to learn while having fun.

"The game is designed to work with textbooks," said Megan Caylor, a junior majoring in zoology. "It is worth creating since video games are popular, and one of this nature is not currently on the market."

The process of creating the game went much further than writing code and designing graphics, said Martha Hunt, assistant professor of landscape architecture and the seminar's adviser.

During the semester-long project, ecosystem education, graphics, storywriting, game development and computer tech teams were created to work through the challenges of building an educational video game.

Caylor led the storyline team, which addresses several environmental concerns in the different game stages that students must complete to win. Two of the three segments focus on managing native species while identifying and working with invasive ones.

Depending on which path the players follow, they may run into:

  • a cottonwood tree that introduces the game to all players
  • a bird that asks for help replanting an old-growth forest
  • a beaver that requests help connecting wetlands to a running water supply
  • a butterfly that requires help replacing invasive plants with natural prairie species

"We designed the two-dimensional game so students have to complete the tasks more than once to ensure they are learning," Caylor said.

The concept was created by Hunt while she was watching her nephews master educational skills from playing video games.

"Using video games could capitalize on the way students learn," Hunt said. "The way teachers educate needs to adjust to the students who have grown up in the digital age."

The project is sponsored by the Virginia B. Ball Center, founded in 1999 at Ball State. The center explores the connections among the arts, humanities, sciences and technology; creates products to illustrate each project's collaborative research and interdisciplinary study; and has each team present its product to the community.

By Jody Kress

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