Most people like games of some form or another. This is apparent through the current younger generation’s obsession with video games and all of the different gaming devices that are constantly hitting the market. People also enjoy being entertained, and would much rather be entertained than have to “work” at learning something. If students are not interested in a subject or are bored when the material is being presented to them, they tend to not retain the information very well, or may not retain it all. So what are educators and parents to do to try to help them in learning subjects, particularly subjects such as science, which might not catch their fancy?
One method for doing this is through merging learning and entertainment. If students are enticed with something that is somewhat more entertaining than just sitting to a teacher talking at them, they are more likely to participate in class and be receptive to the information that is being presented to them. Since most students enjoy games, science games are great way to help the learning process. The games appeal to their love of being entertained, and depending on the objective or expected outcome of the game, it might also appeal to their sense of competition. Most kids, whether they will admit to it or not, enjoy making themselves appear better than their peers and they also enjoy winning at something. Science games give them this opportunity while helping to reinforce science concepts.
People also have different learning styles, and while a majority of students learn best through audio and visual means (ie, through lecturing, etc), there are students that do a lot better when they are doing hands-on activities. This is also important for students who tend to lose focus very easily and drift off during a lecture. By planning a game that incorporates science, audio, visual, and kinesthetic learners have any opportunity to be included in the learning process while being entertained. Working in groups with their classmates will also provide the opportunity for students to share ideas and knowledge and to help each other correct misconceptions.
The difficult task is coming up with a game that incorporates science while piquing students’ interest. The content should be meaningful, and the game should be structured so that it is beneficial to the students’ learning. The focus should be more on the science content than in the entertainment or competition value of the game. That is not to say that these components shouldn’t be there to entice and motivate them in some way. But the science also needs to be there or the purpose of trying to aid them in their learning will be defeated. Also an important thing to keep in mind is that the game needs to be simple. If the rules are too complicated to follow, students will become frustrated and disinterested. They will also be focusing more on trying to figure out the game rather than figuring out the science at the heart of the game.
Once a learner has been drawn in by the lure of a game, they will become involved and will be working with science without even realizing that they are working at it. They will be surrounded by the content and it will be sinking into their minds as they work through the process of the game. Then later, when they go to do a problem or work on a particular concept, they will (hopefully) think back to what they did when playing the game, and it will be easy for them to recall the concept because it was introduced to them while they were interested in what they were doing.