This adventure in learning began when one of my 6th grade science teachers approached me prior to spring break wanting to plan a BreakoutEDU game. She wanted a game based on the unit her students were wrapping up, Plants and Ecosystems. I searched the BreakoutEDU webpage without luck, and decided we'd have to create something to fit the needs of her and her students.
We met together and she was able to walk me through a good bit of the material, and we were able to bounce some puzzle ideas off one another. She wanted to cover the cycles that take place in an ecosystem; water cycle, carbon cycle, photosynthesis, and pollination to name a few. She also wanted to include different types of biomes, as well as a variety of flowering plants. Identifying the parts of a plant and symbiotic relationships rounded out our discussion that day.
After our meeting I tried to get to work on designing puzzles to match our chosen topics, but my wheels were spinning, and I really lacked direction and motivation. I'm not sure how long I sat in that funk, but as soon as my backstory started to come into focus, the puzzles started writing themselves. I decided to write the game from the perspective of plants and animals in an ecosystem, and telling their stories through social-media puzzles.
Symbiotic relationships correlated to a Facebook relationship status. The food chain worked with song titles on Spotify. Snapchat fit with labeling plant parts, and counting Instagram likes in specific plant photographs made sense. The directional arrow paired with tweets about plant processes worked perfectly. I was also able to create a text conversation that proved to be so simple it was challenging.
I was so excited for game day, that I was awake before my alarm had gone off. I just knew that the student would LOVE the game I had designed. Boy, was I in for a rude awakening. I'm not sure if my puzzles were just that difficult, or the student just struggled to make the connections, but the first class was difficult. No-one broke out, and several didn't even open a single lock. Afterwards, I had time to recreate and adapt some puzzles so that the game would be more appropriate for the students. The next classes were still a struggle, but were also slightly more successful. At the end of the day I felt quite defeated, but my colleague assured me that the game was solid, and it was the students that really needed to apply themselves more in order to achieve success. I created a digital version of the game over the weekend and shared it with her so that her students could have another shot at the puzzles.
I have since tweaked the game even more, rewriting some of the clues to be a bit more to the point. I do believe I created something that was a bit too advanced for those sixth graders.
I have a group of 6th graders trying the digital version of the game tomorrow. I'm eager to see how they do and get feedback from them so that I can continue to improve the game. I really did enjoy creating it, and I hope the students can enjoy working through it.
Want to try the game? Click the link below:
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