"The Pack" Takes Computational and Ecological Learning Beyond the Textbook
A new digital game for players of any age, created by the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) and Design I/O, uses theories of playful learning to encourage computational thinking and scientific inquiry. CIESIN was a partner in the project, supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), that sought to develop innovative ways to teach kids about ecological concepts using approaches drawn from the computer sciences.
The interactive game, The Pack, takes place in a futuristic world called Algos, where food and water are scarce. The challenge of the game is to restore ecosystem balance. The player marshalls different creatures to perform a variety of tasks—digging, moving, holding, grabbing, seeking, and bumping—in order to move water around the environment and find seeds. By arranging and repeating tasks in different order, the player can develop, test, and modify new algorithms to achieve specific objectives.
The Pack is an “open world,” meaning players can explore and choose their objectives more freely than in a linear game with directed goals. As players continue in the game, they encounter increasingly complex opportunities to develop and use their algorithmic thinking skills. For young players, the game seeks to develop a problem-solving mindset and to strengthen social and strategic-thinking skills.
The game leverages increased awareness in the education field that children learn best through play, especially in science. The NYSCI is a pioneer of “design-make-play,” an approach that is central to all of NYSCI's exhibits and activities at its museum location in Queens, New York. Based on the two concepts, awareness of the environment and computational thinking, The Pack is meant for both informal and formal settings in support of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Computing (STEM+C) education.
The Pack was inspired by the award-winning Connected Worlds installation, which came out of a previous NSF-funded collaboration between NYSCI, Design I/O, and CIESIN. This immersive fantastical virtual world lets visitors playfully and tactilely interact with and explore the interdependence of different habitats within a larger ecosystem. The JPB Foundation supported the final production and release of both Connected Worlds and The Pack.
The Pack is free and available for download for Mac OSX, Windows, and iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch). The game is intended for children 4 years old and up. It currently has a rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars in Apple's App Store.
“The Pack” (download available for Mac OSX, Windows, and iOS)