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Using physics games to explore the climate crisis in the Arctic

OCT 13, 2023
A climate change escape room educates introductory physics students about the effects of thermokarst in the Arctic
Using physics games to explore the climate crisis in the Arctic internal name

Using physics games to explore the climate crisis in the Arctic lead image

As the global climate crisis grows increasingly urgent, climate science is at the forefront of the science classroom. Particular attention is focused on the rapidly changing Arctic landscape as it has a direct impact on global climate system dynamics.

Buggé and Resnick presented climate change information with an interactive gameplay environment to educate students about these global issues.

“We were surprised by the level of attention the game garnered from a diverse set of learners,” said author Danielle Buggé.

“Furthermore, the ensuing conversations around various aspects of climate change and its effects after gameplay were promising,” said author Elana Resnick.

The developers used Google Slides and current NASA and NOAA data to create an escape room-style game based on the Investigative Science Learning Environment (ISLE) approach.

Students are at the center of the action in the ISLE approach, where they collaboratively develop physics concepts while mirroring scientific practice. In an escape room, teams are locked into a room and need to work together to discover clues and solve a series of puzzles to find a way out. Not only does this approach present scientific learning in a fun and engaging way, but it also encourages teamwork and helps learners establish growth mindsets.

In the researchers’ escape room, students find themselves trapped in an Arctic research base while investigating the effects of thermokarst — the process by which lakes and sinkholes are created due to thawing permafrost. Developing and testing a hypothesis for the origin of this phenomenon summons a helicopter to escape before the facility collapses.

“Now that the game has been prototyped, our next project will explore the effects of playing the game on student climate knowledge,” said Buggé.

Source: “Escape the arctic: A climate change escape room for introductory physics students,” by Danielle Buggé and Elana Resnick, The Physics Teacher (2023). The article can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.1119/5.0136959 .

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