Biotechnology and Advanced Manufacturing careers involve applying math, science and technology. Exploring these careers through educational games, then, can help you motivate students by introducing them to a career goal, as well as expose them to the TEKS requirements.
For example, Whack-a-Virus, one of the beginning games in the Bioplex area of Whyville, gives students hands-on practice with the human body's immune system response to viral attack. After they earn a clam (Whyville's currency), Whyville will automatically encourage them to explore careers in the Biotechnology area, and present them with biotechnology educational opportunities specific to their region of Texas. Other games in the Bioplex allow students to create and commercialize vaccines, track viral outbreaks, choose an appropriate vaccine from a pharmacy, design viruses -- and more! This is interactive constructivist learning at its best!
In the PlaneWorks area, students participate in games related to Advanced Manufacturing. WingFling, the beginning game, allows students to experience assembling inputs to produce an output on a high speed manufacturing assembly line. Again, after the student earns a clam of currency, Whyville will automatically encourage them to explore careers in the Advanced Manufacturing area, and present them with Advanced Manufacturing educational opportunities specific to their region of Texas. Students may also assemble planes according to Whyville government performance specifications, set up a business as a parts supplier, and design and race custom airplane creations in the PlaneWorks CAD Olympics. The engineers of tomorrow are solving Advanced Manufacturing problems in Whyville today!
Would you like to see how the games expose the students to the TEKS? Click here!
As the students spend more time in Whyville, they will find many more games and opportunities to develop their math and science skills, and compete with other citizens. In addition, there are numerous cross-curricular activities. Don't be surprised if the students visit Whyville on their own time - it is an excellent example of informal science education.
- Engage - Explore - Explain
Covering immunology? The Bioplex games are a great way to ENGAGE students in the process of learning about antigens, antibodies, macrophages, and the business of biotechnology. They also allow the students to EXPLORE various problem-solving techniques independently. The detailed tutorials EXPLAIN the concepts in an easy-to-understand way.
The games make the textbook descriptions come alive in an interactive way!
- Mathematical reasoning
The problems presented in PlaneWorks encourage practice with reasoning, measurements, and whole number and decimal operations. These are word problems that students will enjoy doing!
- Differentiated learning
There are games at all levels in both the Bioplex and PlaneWorks areas. Let the students progress as far as they are capable.
Bioplex: For students struggling with the abstraction of biology that they cannot see, this game allows them to participate in the process of immunology. They aren't just watching a video - they are virus-killers!
PlaneWorks: Many students have a limited understanding of how complex machines are made. This game simplifies the process into its basic parts so they can participate in airplane building.
- Teamwork lesson
Many of the games allow more than one player to participate at a time. For example, in WingFling, up to four players can play at one time. They can drive the clams earned higher and higher by cooperating rather than competing. Let them figure out how! (Hint: Assign one person to each assembly bay, plus one to hold extra parts. Everyone wins!)
Multiple players can also participate in Whack-a-Virus (Hint: One person can make custom antibodies while the other players deploy them.]
- Computer lab
The games are an excellent way for students to practice their keyboard and navigation skills, while reinforcing your lessons. There is a game here for virtually every skill level.
Teachers have used Whyville in many creative ways, including:
- Extra credit for spending time in the site at their home. You can even add on a critical thinking written assignment that reflects their learning. For example,
- Have the student write a paragraph comparing and contrasting the Whack-a-virus game to how viral immunology actually works.
- Have the student describe how they can use teamwork to maximize success in WingFling.
- Have the student write detailed instructions for another student to play the games.
- Afterschool care activity
- These are games that students can play during an afterschool program to re-energize their minds.
- Math or science club teamwork activity
- Great club activity - work in teams to see which team can earn the most clams!
In April, we will begin a competition in which teachers will earn valuable prizes for having the most students win the most clams in the Whyville Bioplex and PlaneWorks games. Stay tuned for details - and let your teams practice now!