Brittan Acres 3rd grade teachers Kelly Earlywine and Jennifer Heinschel launched a new Project-Based Learning unit designed to teach students about animal adaptations and how animals can be beneficial or detrimental to their ecosystems. Students were tasked with creating an animal that would be perfectly adapted and uniquely beneficial to its environment. Mrs. Earlywine and Mrs. Heinschel also wanted students to demonstrate their learning in an innovative way, so with funding from the SCEF Educator Innovation Fund they purchased a classroom set of Bloxels, a hands-on platform for kids to build, collaborate, and in this case, present their ecosystem stories through video game creation.
Mrs. Heinschel and Mrs. Earlywine gave their students free rein to invent animals that would be beneficial to their ecosystem. One student group created the Lert, an animal that “eats sharks, bears and sea otters, lives in the ocean, and has gills, teeth, and big legs to go on land.” Students gave it the ability to make coral reef, in which other fish could live. Another student group designed the Ottbon, an animal that can turn pollution into clear water. Once students sketched their animal and its ecosystem on paper, they worked on transforming it into a video game. They used the multi-colored Bloxel cubes to design their character and its ecosystem on a gameboard. Students then used an app on ipads to take pictures of the gameboard, which then became customizable “rooms” in the video game, through which the animal character would travel akin to a Mario Brothers video game. Students delighted in the fact that they could develop a video game featuring an animal and ecosystem of their own creation. The Bloxels enabled students to utilize technology and hone their creative skills by building an interactive and engaging game to teach others what they learned — a truly innovative 21st century approach to producing a final product for their ecosystems unit.