Tag: BIMS 1300
BIMS 1300 is a bit of an unusual course to start the BIMS major out on. The title is “Introduction to Scientific Research”, and yet we spend the majority of our time playing and designing games, with only limited time spent discussing the scientific method, the structure of a scientific paper, and the importance of ethical and moral behavior in the sciences. So it might come as a shock that one of the key features of the final exam is the analysis of a scientific paper taken from the Journal of Invertebrate Pathology.
All semester long, I have been telling the 33 students in the class (mostly freshmen) that our approach to learning how scientific research is conducted is taken from “The Karate Kid” – we do things seemingly unrelated to science to learn about science. So we played games to learn about variable and constants, how to use deductive reasoning to isolate variables in order to win the game. The mid-term exam included a simple Sudoku! We read excerpts from “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” to learn about observation and controlled experimental design. I give them an article called “Delusions of Gender” that is a great example of how inductive reasoning can go awry if taken beyond the limits of logic. We ran through examples of research misconduct and discussed the high costs of research and played “The Lab” at the NIH-ORI website.
And their final exam included evaluation of a scientific paper. They told me which paragraphs fit into each part of an IMRAD format paper. They evaluated logic used in the Results and Discussion section. They identified variables and constants in the table and figure. Then, on page two of the exam they looked at a flawed study, pointed out the mistakes and designed a better approach. And they explained how the games their groups created use these same methods and approaches and skills.
How did they do? As students in the course have done over the past four years, they were able to show me they “get it” about how we use the tools of science on a daily basis as we go about our decision-filled lives. And I am certain the experience of this class will help our students approach their sophomore classes, including organic chemistry, genetics, and human physiology from a more critical and thoughtful perspective.
People around the world have been drawn to Jeff Foxworthy’s game show – Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? The game show puts a lone individual at the mercy of a group of bright and talented 5th graders and challenges them to answer common questions any 5th grader should have seen at some point in their brief educational career. Truth be told, we all want to know we’re smarter than a 12 year old and we all want our rising generation to be smart and capable, ready to face the problems 20 years that we’ve not solved today.
You may recall that last semester the students in BIMS 1300 Intro to Scientific Research created games as their final project, a way to demonstrate how the skills and methods of science are commonly encountered when playing typical board games. This semester, the stakes were raised by asking four teams in the BIMS 1300 class to create games for 5th graders. McMurry’s 5th Grade Science & Math Magnet Class students (the “McMagnets”) were asked about their favorite games and what they would like to see in a new game. Those responses are helping to guide the BIMS teams in the creation of their games. These are the preliminary ideas under construction:
- Germ-a-lot. This board game features home castles, moats and draw bridges, an Ogre, and catapults used to knock down your opponent. Players roll the dice and navigate along a path between swamp and forest as they answer questions and collect chances to shoot at their opponents with a catapult. Last player standing wins. The Germ-a-lot title plays off of Camelot and the fact that plagues and other germ-centered elements of the game make this a title a logical choice.
- The Pyramid. Though one might consider the Egyptian version, this game will center on Central American/Mexican pyramids in a jungle setting. As this game concept only emerged two days ago, the directions and ending of game play still are in their formative stages. However, there will be a journey along the game board through jungle and hazards before players reach the 3-D pyramid with pitfalls. They will have to collect equipment for the journey along the way and scale the pyramid to win the game. One unique feature is the concept of partners having to cooperate and help one another so that both can reach the summit and win the game.
- Junior High. This clever game allows students to make choices and move through their junior high years. At each fork in the road is a decision point where good or bad decisions await the player. Players must choose friends and activities through their school year, and can use the occasion of each new school year to make changes and adjust who they are and what they do. Should prove to be a great learning tool for guiding young players to make smart choices.
- Body Building. Players roll dice to move their tokens around a game board shaped like the human body. Depending on the color of space landed on, the player must answer a question in one of several science categories (the McMagnet teacher’s science book is being used as the source for questions). Get it right and you get to pull a Jenga block out of the tower in the middle of the board and use it to begin building your own tower. The person who makes the tower fall automatically loses, while the other player with the tallest tower at that time wins the game.
So, four very different and interesting games, filled with dimension, tactile activities, right choices, science knowledge, and all-around fun. I’ll report back on these when we see how they turn out. AND, I’ll post the commercials for the games each team is making as part of their final submission. Yes, BIMS is more fun than it has to be!
The third game created as a final project by students in BIOL 1300 Intro to Scientific Reseaarch was called “College Life”. It was voted overall “best game” by the majority of class members. This game about the academic climb from entering freshman to graduating senior was created by team members Chris Tatum, Raven Blanchard, Jessika Williams, and Sara Ploetz.
College Life is a multi-player game in which students move around a gameboard based on the McMurry campus map to answer questions from a variety of categories representing the general education requirements for a degree. They must also choose a major where additional questions have to be answered. As they reach milestones in courses completed, they move from freshman to sophomore and up through the classifications until they become seniors. Questions increase in difficulty as one progresses to become a senior. Fine Arts questions might require modeling with clay or signing a song or drawing an object, showing that this is not an ordinary trivia question game. Other categories (History, Science, Humanities, Math, and Business) also used innovative means for challenging students. As seniors, they must answer capstone questions in their major in order to graduate from College Life as the winner.
All students in the class played the three games and rated them on their playability, their conformance to the expected specifications, and their inclusion of elements from the course – use of inductive and deductive logic, cause and effect, repetitive use of the question-test-analysis cycle (the scientific method), and so forth. Students rated it highest in playability and learning curve, in the “fun factor” and in conformance to design specifications laid out beforehand. They felt it was the game “most ready for prime time”, that this game could be refined into a fun game for the whole family and would have a decent chance of being commercialized. Congratulations to these students for creating the winning entry into the game competition for Fall 2010.
During the semester, I often described our approach to learning about how science is done as being a “wax on, wax off” method of teaching solid content and abilities using unconventional methods. The final products of the course – the games just described – demonstrated the approach works surprisingly well. Can’t wait to see what the Spring 2011 class will accomplish!