The Big Five: STEAM educational games your kids should be playing now
STEAM education and blended learning are popular terms nowadays.
Both concepts encourage kids to learn using a mix of traditional and digital tools and platforms. The STEAM education approach, in particular, challenges them to find solutions to open-ended problems and learn concepts in a multidisciplinary way based on relatable real world scenarios. Children are exposed to important new concepts and ideas like robotics, coding, AI, collaborative design, and mixed media, among others.
A combination of blended or mixed mode learning, and STEAM education can help supercharge learning outcomes and inspire kids through exploratory and self-discovery learning, where they have the freedom to tinker, create, fail, try again, and innovate. This process is empowering and promotes the development of creative thinking and problem solving skills.
One blended learning educator’s tool that’s gaining momentum nowadays are educational games, increasingly known as “serious games.” Serious gaming can level up engagement in educational concepts and activities, and subsequently help improve learning outcomes.
Here, we’ve summarized some popular games with a STEAM Education focus:
Coding is the 21st century’s alphabet. Educators are calling it the “new literacy” that all kids should learn these days. In the last few years, we’ve seen a bunch more educational games that teach kids how to code, even for early learners.
One of our picks are Lightbot and Lightbot Jr. These are very simple yet challenging games where kids learn fundamentals of computer programming for kids such as abstraction and logic. Lightbot Jr. is designed for kids aged four to eight, while Lightbot is intended to be played by students aged nine and up.
Kids play as a little robot navigating a dark maze world. They are given a set of challenges to arrange simple commands for their robot to walk, jump, turn, and so on. As the game progresses, it introduces more complex coding concepts like loops, procedure, and more.
Other notable games that teach coding: Scratch, Tynker, Hopscotch, Kodable, Kodu Lab, Lego Education, and, of course Planeteers!
Minecraft: Education Edition is one of the most popular games used in an educational setting today. And, of course, it’s based on the mega hit consumer version of the game. Minecraft allows kids to create their own world, which encourages creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration in a very inclusive environment. The world they create is only limited by their imagination.
Minecraft is so flexible that it gives educators scope to use the game in different subjects, be it a history class building replicas of the great pyramids, or a science class building a simple machine. Kids can learn basic ideas and concepts on how to build machines, basics of programing for kids, and, if they loath math, it might be a fun way to improve calculation skills.
Other notable games in this category: Planeteers, Blocksworld, Roblox, and Lego Universe.
This app promotes creativity in 3D printing. This 3D modeling software enables children to create toys they can play on their smart phones and tablets or play with it physically after 3D printing their creations with one of their partners. Although not accessible for all, it’s pretty exciting stuff and teaches kids design thinking and visual design to spark their creativity.
This one is all for the future engineers out there… or for every curious kid who likes to build machines! With amazing graphics to boot, Scrap Mechanic allows players to build structures and machines from–you guess it– scrap parts! This engineering sandbox allows kids to tinker with different parts like engines, thrusters, and wheels, among others, to create machines like cool rockets and cars. It encourages inventions and innovation, with the concept of failing being fun as machines might crash and burn in spectacular fashion in a simulated real world environment with physics like gravity, force, and thrust at play. This is great for teaching mechanics, design, and physics concepts!
Other notable games in this category: Lego Universe, Planeteers, Blocksworld, and Roblox.
While the other games featured here teach one or two STEAM skills, Planeteers is the first serious game that focuses in all aspects of STEAM education. Designed for grades 3 to 6, it teaches all major concepts from a comprehensive STEAM program, including important 21st century skills like engineering, coding, robotics, and design thinking in a highly immersive educational sandbox with real world physics, flora, and fauna.
Smartly disguised as a video game, Planeteers launches soon internationally. Parents and educators keen on getting a sneak peek can watch the teaser video and sign up for the Beta here https://education.planeteersgame.com/.
Serious games are fast becoming a highly engaging educational tool for the classroom and home. STEAM education aside, in the simplest sense, they allow kids to learn while doing what they love best—Play! Take a look at our recommended list and perhaps introduce your kids to some of these or others you might find in your travels that complement their education and supercharge their learning.