While STEM and science education are extremely popular right now, sometimes it can be a struggle to actually understand, grasp, and retain information in the long run for many students. But as science progresses, so does education and the practices that we use to teach certain topics. Current research across the board indicates that board games are the best way to learn any and all science-based subjects for kids and adults alike from preschool to post-secondary education.
Board games approach learning and cognition in a very unique way. They allow kinesthetic leaners to be hands-on, visual learners to see, and auditory learners to hear and communicate through the game’s mechanics. And allow all students to be hands-on while engaging in learning material.
Therefore, it’s not wonder that there is power in games to make difficult subject matter like physics easier to digest and remember. In fact, I can tell you a lot more about Physics than I can Chemistry from my high school AP classes.
Because my Chemistry teacher called our weekly packet of paper homework “Fun and games” when it was far from it; however, in Physics, our teacher literally made science come to life! He let us use snap circuits to learn electricity, wear special goggles to literally see different optics, watch him lay on a bed of nails to demonstrate force, and of course throw bungeed Barbies off a railing in effort to calculate the coefficient of a spring… plus much more.
The point is not that we did these wild and crazy things, but that his implementation of games and meaningful activities helped physics come to life.
It wasn’t theoretical or simply on paper; it was happening in front of our eyes.
Scroll down to see our science board game list recommendations.
Current search on the implementation of games in science classrooms
Games are one of the best ways to introduce and reinforce hard to learn topics. Science is typically at the top of the list when it comes to subjects that most kids or even adults, no matter the age, need extra time focusing on to properly learn.
As a whole research has started to show that games help students focus on the relationship between ideas and ultimately improves their ability to make judgments and apply their understanding better than without game play.
But what exactly does the research show?
Board games for learning physical science
Physics is a lot more abstract than most subjects, so it’s no surprise a recent 2019 study came out of Ireland stating that board games can be a perfect way to balance learning objectives with play (Cardinot, 2019).
In the study, one of the most notable facts was that teachers indicated that the games were especially helpful in three main areas:
- To use play as a forerunner to exams to practice learned knowledge
- To introduced a new concept
- And to “adapt for another science subject (mix astronomy and chemistry/biology topics)”.
Teachers were also quick to note that it increased discussion among their physics students but also provided valuable group learning opportunities.
When we take abstract subjects and implement them into a game-style format, it allows teachers, professors, and parents to create stronger learning outcomes because of opportunities to engage learners with the sciences and improve the learning process and memory retention.
The use of games has also been shown to promote social development (Berland & Lee, 2012) and foster teamwork skills (Azizan et al., 2018) that are sometimes lacking in higher grades or in certain science-related fields.
Like the old phrase that “two heads are better than one”, the Azizan study specifically points to the need for use of cooperative games to improve communication and teamwork when studying and applying scientific understanding.
Using games to learn life and earth sciences
It’s not just for abstract subjects either! In a group of adult medical students, research found that knowledge retention increased by 12% between pre- and post-test for the doctors and nurses that used games to learn and apply knowledge of neonatal resuscitation (Cutumisu,2019).
In another study, high school biology students were taught by using a game that simulated molecules and cells. The rules of the game guided students to logical conclusions and learning outcomes, helping them further understand the subject matter (2019).
This means that both pre-made games and games created by teachers can guide students down logical learning outcomes no matter the subject matter. Simply by creatively applying rules, students learn scientific parameters and understand how they apply to what they’re studying.
Search for Science games based on subject and age
We have compiled a list of tried and true games for learning science. These are games we have played, friend recommend, or other teachers and homeschoolers have found helpful. We will continue to add to this list of educational science games! All age ranges are based on the manufacturer. Many times, we have introduced the games or concepts at a much earlier age.
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More research on games
Research supporting board games to learn science
Azizan, M. T., Mellon, N., Ramli, R. M., & Yusup, S. (2018). Improving teamwork skills and enhancing deep learning via development of board game using cooperative learning method in Reaction Engineering course. Education for Chemical Engineers, 22.
Berland, M., & Lee, V. R. (2011). Collaborative strategic board games as a site for distributed computational thinking. International Journal of Game-Based Learning (IJGBL), 1(2), 65- 81.
Cardinot, Adriana and Jessamyn A. Fairfield. “Game-Based Learning to Engage Students With Physics and Astronomy Using a Board Game.” IJGBL 9.1 (2019): 42-57. Web. 8 Apr. 2019. doi:10.4018/IJGBL.2019010104