Best Digital Games for Science

There are so many wonderful ways to explore the science of the world around us from robotics, to hands-on exploration to the intersection of science and pop culture. And these are crucial given the ever increasing necessity of technology in our world coupled with the simultaneous and antithetical growth of science denialism. That’s why in addition to addressing science denial we need to also initiate 21st-century teaching practices. One of the most engaging ways to do that is through games. And while some board games like Pandemic or Virulence are downright infectious, I want to focus on those digital one where you don’t have to worry about losing pieces. I remember playing Spore with my students nearly a decade ago as we explored cellular organisms and evolution. It seems almost quaint now. Here are some of my favorite current science games.

Minecraft Edu

Minecraft chemistry compound creator showing combining hydrogen and oxygen to create water

Minecraft is easily one of the most popular video games of all time, and it’s easy to see why. It’s like digital LEGO and it allows the full creativity of students to be on display as they create anything their mind can imagine. I have used it frequently to teach social emotional skills with my students with autism. The Minecraft world also keeps true to many of the the rules of our natural world (apart from Creepers and rainbow sheep) which makes it wonderful for scientific exploration. And the education edition of Minecraft (which just received a major update) takes that even further. That includes exploring biodiversity of the many animals as well as sustainability, renewable energy, and deforestation through the variety of Minecraft biomes. You can create engineering challenges like bridge building and roller coasters or explore outer space or inside a cell. You can take it even further with the new Chemistry Kit, Coding Kit, or explore Science Island. For variety and breadth of gamified learning experiences, Minecraft: Education Edition is your best bet.

Legends of Learning

Legends of Learning game browser window

Legends of Learning is a whole platform that’s all about Science (and Math) games. I’m talking like 1000+ games across 140+ topics for elementary and middle school students. You can find them broadly across earth science, life science, and physical science. Teachers can set up a playlist for students or quickly begin assigning individual games. And all of the games are aligned directly to the Next Generation Science Standards. I will say that not all of the games are great, but there is a teacher and student rating system that lets you know which ones are the most fun and most informative. It also tells you whether the games are focused more on assessment or instruction. It does function as a one-stop science games shop where you can regularly monitor student progress.

BrainPOP

Guts and bolts step eleven with brains, intestines, and organs connected by pipes

Along with linking to a number of the other games listed here, BrainPOP also has their own science-related games across a variety of science topics.

PBS

PBS has a wide array of *FREE* learning resources for students of all ages. The best place to start is usually with PBS Learning Media. It functions as the one-stop shop where teachers can find interactive lessons, videos, documents, and other resources to support science (and other) learning. It also allows teachers to create their own activities with the Lesson Builder, Quiz Maker, Storyboard, and Puzzle Builder in addition to organizing assignments. Apart from those resources though where you can learn about science in a more traditional context, they also have various STEM games too including ones like Railway Hero which have been made accessible for students with disabilities. Here are some other free games they produce.

TinyBop

Laptop with multiple TinyBop app images

At first TinyBop may seem like some shiny and colorful apps for little kids, but I have to say they have held my adult interest for quite a while. And the level of complexity some of the apps dive into is surprising. They currently have 17 apps organized into an explorers library and digital toys which are cheaper when purchased in a bundle.

Organizations, Apps, & More

Image result for field day lab

There are also a number of fun stand alone apps that you can explore. Common Sense Education has a number of worthwhile lists to supplement your needs. Some of my favorite ones include Crazy Gears, Inventioneers, Cell Strike, Plague Inc, or any of the NY Hall of Science apps.

Computer Science

There are a number of great games specifically for computer science. Here are a few below to teach students to code and how to be positive digital citizens. You can also check 7 Ways to Celebrate CS Ed Week for several other great activities to get started coding.

Coding

  • Code – This is where most teachers get started. They have curriculum across grade levels as well as one-off games to get started.
  • Scratch – Here is where kids can play, create, and remix games in a collaborative community. And the 3.0 version allows for many new integration capabilities.
  • Tynker – They have coding games for almost everything, and it even allows to create editors and content for other games like Minecraft.
  • Swift Playgrounds – This is Apple’s playful middle school CS app.
  • Gamestar Mechanic – You can play games to learn how to make games.
  • Code Monkey – They have a whole early exploration in CS curriculum where playing with animals helps build your skills.

Digital Citizenship

  • Digital Passport – Common Sense Media’s 6 games on digital citizenship for elementary students
  • Digital Compass – Common Sense Media’s game for middle school students encouraging them to make smart digital choices
  • Be Internet Awesome – Google’s foray into playful digital citizenship

There are certainly more games out there as well as other tools for science creation, but for now this should give any class a solid start. So get playing and ifyou want more you can check out my favorite games for social studies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s