Description: Created with teachers and students, aligned with standards, and proven to effectively improve student outcomes, the Martha Madison game-based curriculum has had research at its core from the very beginning. Funded by the National Science Foundation, Martha Madison was designed to address students’ lagging interest and performance in STEM. The game utilizes a problem-based learning approach, with each game mechanic aligning with specific learning objectives and Next Generation Science Standards. Our findings have demonstrated that Martha Madison is an effective and exciting approach to science education for students of both genders and across all socioeconomic groups. Our research shows that we can close 95% of the STEM affiliation gap by minority and economically disadvantaged students in comparison to their majority peers. The game modules include content on: Forces, Optics, Waves, Simple Machines, Magnetism, Electricity, and Energy.
Skills and Ideas Taught:
Each module helps students learn about a different physical sciences:
-In Waves, players work together to alert Martha’s animal friends of a huge storm heading their way. Using Martha’s wave-generating device, players learn how to create transverse and longitudinal waves that relay warning signals by air and water.
-In Forces, players deliver blocks of ice to a community of penguins needing to build homes. As players move through the game, they discover how the physical phenomena of forces helps or hinders their ability to deliver ice to the penguins.
-In Optics, players search for instructions to help Martha build a microscope. As players make their way through the ancient Temple of Light, they use lenses and mirrors to explore the principles and properties of light.
-In Simple Machines 1, players work together to help Martha’s crab friends collect and store coconuts for food and supplies. Players use the incline plane, wedge, and screw to their mechanical advantage and overcome obstacles.
-In Simple Machines 2, players work together to help Martha’s crab friends collect and store coconuts for food and supplies. Players use the incline lever, pulley, and wheel-and-axle to their mechanical advantage and overcome obstacles.
-In Magnetism, players explore an ancient temple to bring power to a nearby village of animals. Players solve puzzles using the nature of magnets and magnetic force fields to locate parts needed to repair a power generator.
-In Electricity, a recent storm has damaged a power station, leaving many in the community without power. Players help Martha repair the station and restore power.
-In Energy, players help Martha deliver medicine to her friend, Mole, who’s home sick in bed. As players deliver Mole’s medicine, they encounter various kinds of energy—kinetic, potential, or chemical, along the way.
Goal or Challenge: Recent results on national and international tests have indicated that U.S. middle school students perform relatively poorly in both science and mathematics, especially compared to their counterparts in other developed nations. Moreover, female and minority students lag significantly behind their peers in STEM, leading to a marked underrepresentation of these groups in the STEM workforce.Our goal is to reduce the STEM affiliation gap and get students engaged and excited about their learning.
Primary Audience: Middle School Students, in particular grades 6-8. However, the content may be applicable for older students who have not yet had access to the physical science content we explore.
Assessment Approach: Students are introduced to key science concepts through an engaging narrative, which is presented by Martha Madison, the scientist meerkat who serves as a mentor and guide throughout the game. Students select their animal avatars and then use the unique abilities of their avatars to help Martha Madison solve authentic science problems. All in-game challenges are directly tied to specific learning objectives and standards. A sandbox-style maker space allows students to create their own game levels and challenges, encouraging open-ended play and creation while providing teachers with revolutionary assessment options. The current curriculum includes the digital games, a robust data dashboard with multiple interfaces, in-game and paper-based assessments, as well as a full instructional resources package.
Game Engine: Unity
Operating System: Windows 7 or Higher
Platform: PC – Web
Special Hardware: Xbox 360 USB Gamepad