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Board game developed by scientists is winning plaudits for inspiring students to consider STEM careers

Board game developed by scientists wins praise for inspiring students to consider STEM careers

Diamond: the game. Credit: Diamond Light Source Ltd

A team of scientists and a game specialist designed ‘Diamond: The Game’, a board game designed to give high school students the opportunity to explore a wide variety of STEM science careers and topics. This is achieved through first-hand experience of the different aspects of working in scientific research and life as a scientist and shows how research at a facility like Diamond supports successful science. Their paper, “Diamond: The Game – a board game for high school students promoting science careers and experiences” will be published in the magazine Research for everyone on June 30, 2022.

dr. Mark Basham and Dr. Claire Murray of the UK National Synchrotron Diamond Light Source and Dr. Matthew Dunstan of the University of Cambridge created the game for 2-5 players. It lasts between 20-30 minutes and is suitable for children from the age of 10. It puts students directly in the role of a researcher at Diamond, visiting various beamlines (laboratories) to advance in a wide variety of science projects in physics, chemistry, cultural heritage, and more.

dr. Claire Murray explains: “Board games can be powerful, reusable and entertaining tools for directly engaging students and the public in scientific research. Conveying advanced science through play is not trivial, and the power of games to inspire independent curiosity and conversation However, this should not be underestimated However, this requires careful consideration of mechanics, messaging and accessibility to successfully achieve this goal, be it the variety of science that exists, the timely value of a vital collaboration, the disappointment from a failed experiment, or gratitude for the help of a kind staff scientist, the game puts students right into action, encouraging them to make their own choices about what kind of scientist they want to be.”

dr. Matt Dunstan says: “It’s important to create tools and resources to engage underserved communities, but it’s hard to achieve the perfect inclusive design. So the team tested this with different groups to make it as accessible as possible. elements of creating a fun and inclusive game that can be played in the classroom required a clear focus on key messages, however it is essential to note that these considerations have greatly enhanced the experience for students, teachers and the board game activity deliverer.”

An important aspect of the game, explains Dr. Basham, was the need to talk about the reality of being a scientist. “The game normalizes failure as an important process in science, but this was unexpected for many of our players. The role of failure in science can be incredibly powerful and is indeed necessary to improve scientific literacy at home, at school and beyond In addition, many players in our research were surprised that collaboration was such an important element in the game. Teamwork underlies 99% of modern science, so this misunderstanding of the skills involved in scientific careers in these age groups is very worrying.”

The team tested the game with 222 students, many of whom visited Diamond for one of the open days or when Dr. Mark Basham visited local schools. Challenges such as pandemics make public engagement very difficult. However, creativity and a quick response can open up new opportunities and routes for engagement. In July 2020, they created and released a free print-and-play version, with over 14,000 players from over 30 countries, online and through direct contact through schools. A boxed version of the game is now being distributed to 100 UK schools in deprived areas through an STFC Sparks award grant. Miss Greenwood, a Reading teacher who judges the game, says: “A fantastic game to excite the scientist in all our young people. Easy to follow instructions and lesson plans. An easy win for other busy teachers in all the key stages.”

Board game developed by scientists wins praise for inspiring students to consider STEM careers

Newspaper authors and creators of Diamond:The Game; dr. Mark Basham and Dr. Claire Murray of the UK National Synchrotron Diamond Light Source and Dr Matthew Dunstan of the University of Cambridge show how to play the game for 2-5 players. It lasts between 20-30 minutes and is suitable for children from the age of 10. It puts students directly in the role of researcher at Diamond, visiting various beamlines (laboratories) to advance in a wide variety of science projects in physics, chemistry, cultural heritage, and more. Credit: Diamond Light Source Ltd.

The game was developed in line with Diamond’s Public Engagement program, which actively promotes careers in STEM among high school students who can visit the facility and see their science curricula in action. The aim of the game was therefore to create an engagement option for schools unable to attend the facility. This became even more important with the advent of the pandemic. The team says the potential of a tool like this to function in both formal and informal settings makes it a valuable tool in multiple learning settings, especially since there is evidence that children are making career-limiting decisions as early as age seven.

This paper demonstrates a game approach that can be adapted by educators, education professionals or subject enthusiasts to cover any desired subject of study i.e. not limited to STEM subjects and transferable to the wider curriculum. Diamond: The Game reflects the interdisciplinary nature of the science being undertaken at a facility like the Diamond synchrotron and how the work supports everything from fragments of Rembrandt’s painting of Homer to COVID-19 drug screening to the degradation of the Tudor warship “Mary Rose” Tudor, and many more.

The authors explain that the emphasis on scientific careers was especially important after discussions with career counselors who were interested in the opportunity to explore a wide variety of scientific careers and their interdisciplinarity, consistent with the Gatsby good career guidance benchmarks. [Holman 2013]† The team decided to address this directly in their board game by emphasizing collaboration and connecting each scientist in the game with multiple science topics.

“The same report highlighted the power of enabling students to imagine themselves as scientists by sharing the many ways you can be a scientist. This is difficult to achieve through a limited understanding of potential careers, which will naturally result in a limited acceptance of science subjects in high school. This in turn will further reduce science capital, a conceptual tool to measure one’s exposure and knowledge of science, for future generations. An additional problem is that the perception of (the lack of) “scientific success, failure and collaboration contribute to the belief that science is for the elite. By introducing students to these concepts early, we hope to destigmatize failure and collaboration, both of which are essential elements of any scientist’s career,” adds dr. Murray.

The paper outlines how the development of Diamond: The Game has demonstrated the value of using games for educational purposes, emphasizing their ability to position participants as active agents of their learning within the chosen environment and the content does. to it. In this case, students were directly confronted with the emotional highs and lows of conducting science experiments in a large-scale national facility, which in turn directly questions their perception of their own suitability for STEM careers and what being a scientist really means. .

dr. Basham concludes, “Playing the game led participants to understand the full breadth of different scientific disciplines that use Diamond, the interdisciplinarity of global scientific problems, the nature of failure and success in experiments, and the wider range of people who work. at such a facility to ensure its proper functioning.These changing perceptions are evident in the survey data, where there has been an increase in the number of students who would consider a science or engineering career after playing the game, as well as an increase in the number of students seeing science in their daily lives.”


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More information:
“Diamond: The Game – a board game for high school students promoting science careers and experiences.” Research for everyone6(1): 14. DOI: doi.org/10.14324/RFA.6.1.14

Provided by Diamond Light Source


Quote: Board game developed by scientists wins praise for inspiring students to consider STEM careers (2022, June 29) retrieved June 29, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-board-game-scientists-plaudits- students .html

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