Academic journal article Science and Children

Making Connections between the Digital and Physical World: The Game Angry Birds Inspires a Physical Science Challenge

Academic journal article Science and Children

Making Connections between the Digital and Physical World: The Game Angry Birds Inspires a Physical Science Challenge

Article excerpt

If you have been in the waiting room of the nearest pediatrician lately, you may have noticed some changes. What used to be a low-tech play zone involving blocks and a myriad of communal toys has transformed into a digital playground where flat screen, high-definition televisions run endless cartoons, and the latest gaming system stands awaiting its next players. If these high-tech and high-interest devices fail to get the attention of a child, many times parents will supply their own portable digital device. We're not here to decry this environment but instead to describe how the technology-rich environment students experience outside the classroom can provide a highly-engaging and meaningful context inside the classroom--in this case to teach physical science.

One game that seems to intrigue almost any child is Angry Birds, a popular video game available on most media devices in which a player uses a slingshot to hurl small, angry birds through the air in hopes they will knock over pigs resting on complex, destructible structures. Through this half-day lesson, fourth graders design, build, and play a real-life version of the game, providing the educator an avenue to incorporate engineering design and science concepts.

Before this lesson, students should be able to identify kinetic and potential energy and the forces of friction and gravity from previous lessons. This lesson increases depth of knowledge of these topics and adds the transfer of energy. The transfer of energy between two objects relates to NGSS performance expectations 4-PS3-2: Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents, and 4-PS3-3: Ask questions and predict outcomes about the changes in energy that occur when objects collide (NGSS Lead States 2013, p. 35). It also relates to disciplinary core ideas Definitions of Energy (PS3.A) and Energy Transfer (PS3.B). Students often have difficulty differentiating between energy forms and forces as well as the interaction between them (Neumann et al. 2013). Explicitly teaching the science concepts apparent in the game allows the teacher the ability to connect students' informal experiences with science to the formal learning of the curriculum. For a brief outline of the lesson, see Table 1.

TABLE 1.

Outline for Angry Birds activity.

Introduction (15       The Angry Birds game is introduced and
minutes)               connections to science are made.

Warm-up (25 minutes)   Teams investigate properties of their
                       materials and their ability to store energy.
                       They ponder the use of materials for
                       catapults.

First Design (30       Teams draw, build, and test their first
minutes)               designs of structures and catapults.

Design Modification    Teams modify their first designs and then
(30 minutes)           build and test again.

Final Alterations (15  Teams make any final modifications and ready
minutes)               their catapult and structure for the game.

The Game (30-45        Teams use their catapult to try and destroy
minutes)               opposing structures and calculate points
                       earned.

Summative Evaluation   Students draw a diagram of the game and
(20 minutes)           explain what they have learned.

Social Media           Students respond to online videos and discuss
Extension (20          the science behind the game using social
minutes--days after    media.
lesson)

This learning journey between the digital and physical world is sure to trickle its way to dinner, the bus stop, and even summertime conversation as a favorite moment of the school year. By connecting science to the students' experiences and interests, this lesson keeps students excited about science in and out of the classroom.

The Hook

The day begins as I open the Angry Birds application on my phone and project it on the screen to begin playing. …

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