September 14, 2021
During the 2020-2021 academic year, fourteen teachers from grades 3 to 5 from Wisconsin participated in the Shipwrecks! Game Design Fellowship with Field Day and PBS Wisconsin Education. Educators met five times over the winter with a community of teachers, game designers, researchers and maritime archaeologists to co-design a video game that investigates wrecks in the Great Lakes using the practices of real archaeologists.
In addition to co-designing the game, the teachers tested the game with their students. The students then provided feedback and suggested areas for improvement as the design team iterated the designs, character artwork, and the game. Artistic designers from Field Day also toured the classrooms. virtually to get student feedback on character art. The Shipwrecks! The game will be released this winter.
PBS Wisconsin Education spoke to two of these educators – Susan Jurries, from Arbor-Vitae Woodruff School, and Mike Scoville, from Gibraltar area schools – about their experiences with the Shipwrecks! project.
PBS Wisconsin Education: How did you get involved in Shipwrecks! project?
Susan juries: My teaching partner, Perry Smith, has taken a few Sea Grant study tours on the Great Lakes. Initially, he and I both applied for the Field Day project, but they only had room for him. So, later, they asked me to join them to participate in the development of the story and the program of the game.
Mike Scoville: I had the pleasure of working on Jo Wilder and the Capitol Affair with Field Day, PBS Wisconsin, DPI and Wisconsin Historical Society. I knew if they offered another scholarship, I wanted to be part of it.
PBS Wisconsin Education: Why is Great Lakes Education Important to You and Your Students?
Juries: I work in an Expeditionary Learning (EL) school and we have specific design principles that guide our teaching. Some of these principles include: the natural world, service and compassion, solitude and reflection, competition and collaboration, the primacy of self-discovery. We create expeditions in which students can fully immerse themselves. Our favorite is our Great Lakes expedition. Another part of our expedition is based on the wrecks of the Great Lakes. Our section on the Great Lakes Expedition Wrecks helps us delve deeper into the guiding questions: How do humans depend commercially and economically on the Great Lakes? What are the effects of the human-environment interaction of the Great Lakes?
Scoville: Living in Door County, my students and I see the water every day. Many of them spend a great deal of their time in or around water. We are surrounded to the west by Green Bay and to the east by Lake Michigan. While there are many teaching points with maritime archeology and history, in grade five there is a specific study on transportation and industrialization in Wisconsin.
PBS Wisconsin Education: Do you think video games are useful educational tools?
Juries: I was recently introduced to the concept of gamification at our EL Summit. I was interested because I used games like Danger! and online treasure hunts. I created a Great Lakes wreck hunt for the Wisconsin Sea Grant. Play is how a child’s brain works now. I say to myself, why fight him? Just use it to interest and interest them.
Scoville: Video games bring natural curiosity to students. They have a great knowledge of how video games work and are ready to go and get started. There is a natural competition to try to beat the game. Using gamification in school is a great way to include students in new and difficult learning.
PBS Wisconsin Education: What do you hope your students will gain from participating in the process?
Juries: Hope they get an enriched perspective on educational games and take a more in-depth look when participating in games.
Scoville: It’s interesting how the students relate what we did in the humanities this year to video games. Whether it’s urban locations, maritime occupations, ships and their cargo, my students see the connections. I think they also gain useful knowledge about what is underwater that they see every day and how dangerous everyday life was and still is on the water.