Are your students fascinated by video games and animated stories? If so, incorporating game-making and/or animation-making in your classroom or as an after-school activity may be a successful way of teaching programming and other STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) content.
How is video game-making or animation-making an educational activity?
Students can learn a large number of skills while having fun making video games and animations. These skills can include:
- Creative thinking
- Literacy skills
Video game and digital animation correspond to a number of national STEM standards. Table 1 below includes a partial list of the STEM standards and skills integral to programming games and animations. Additional STEM standards can be incorporated by having students create games that focus on science concepts like ecosystems, or that incorporate physical principles like gravity and friction.
|National STEM Standard/Skill Involved||Agency Defining the STEM Standard|
|Dimension 1: Science and Engineering Practices. Particularly applicable are:
National Academy of Sciences. (2011). A Framework for K-12 science education: practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Retrieved July 27, 2011, from http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13165
|ETS1: Engineering Design (all components)|
|ETS2: Links Among Engineering, Technology, Science and Society|
|The Nature of Technology
International Technology Education Association. (2000). Listing of standards for technological literacy (STL) content standards. Retrieved July 27, 2011, from http://www.iteaconnect.org/TAA/PDFs/ListingofSTLContentStandards.pdf
|Abilities for a Technological World:
If you are interested in learning more about the educational benefits of game/animation creation the Institute of Play, a non-profit focused on learning through digital media creation, has an extensive reading list. Level Up's Teacher Share is another resource for discussing resources and successes implementing game/animation creation in the classroom.
What kinds of video/animation making software are available? Are they free? What grades can use them?
A variety of game-making and programming environments are available for students to use for free, or at minimal cost. Several of them require absolutely no previous programming experience and can be used by children aged as young as elementary school. Other intermediate and advanced programming languages are more appropriate for high-school aged students who are ready to learn more formal programming theory. The guide to Kid-Friendly Programming Languages provides more details on the various software options.
I don't have time to make a game/animation curriculum. Are there any educational resources already developed?
Yes! Science Buddies has developed Project Ideas and resource guides for several fun, free game and animation packages. More details can be seen in the guide to Kid-Friendly Programming Languages.
Additionally, Table 2 below lists links to several free educational curriculums using different programming languages.
|Programming Language||Available For Free At:||Description|
|Alice||http://www.alice.org/||The "Teaching" tab has links to Alice-related teaching materials and a forum for educators to connect and discuss.|
|GameMaker||http://activategames.org/resources||PetLab's website, Activate!, has teaching materials emphasizing STEM skills for students programming with GameMaker.|
|GameMaker and Gamestar Mechanic||http://www.scholastic.com/createvideogames/||Scholastic's website, Level Up!, has free lesson plans and worksheets using both GameMaker and Gamestar Mechanic.|
|Gamestar Mechanic||http://www.gamestarmechanic.com/teachers?cid=scibud||The Gamestar Mechanic website has an extensive curriculum for teaching game design using Gamestar Mechanic.|
|Kodu Game Lab||http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?displaylang=en&id=18229||Microsoft's downloadable kit for using Kodu in the classroom or as part of an after-school program.|
|Scratch||http://info.scratch.mit.edu/Educators||Webpage with links to Scratch-related teaching materials, published papers, and a forum for educators to connect and discuss.|
|StarLogo TNG||http://education.mit.edu/projects/starlogo-tng/learn||Webpage with links to teaching materials for using StarLogo TNG to do a variety of tasks including creating simulations and mathematical models.|
What can my students do with the games/animations they create?
Students who use programming skills to create their own video games and/or animations may want to enter those creations in a local science or engineering fair. Students can also share their creations with larger audiences by publishing them in language-specific galleries. For more details, see the guide to Tips and Resources for Making Video and Computer Games.