How to Use SSEC Games

Why Use Games in Science Education?

Extensive research has been done on the efficacy of digital and nondigital games in educational settings, leading to the conclusion that game-based learning is a valuable supplement to more traditional styles of pedagogical instruction. Two books that focus on the benefits of digital games are Gee’s What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy (2003) and Squire’s Video Games and Learning: Teaching and Participatory Culture in the Digital Age (2011). Furthermore, there is evidence that games have marked benefits on development of critical thinking, problem-solving, systems thinking, and creativity skills—all of which are crucial to science education.

How to Use Games in Science Education

Focusing on Standards

Games work best in the classroom when they directly align with curriculum standards. Successful student engagement with a game should lead to improvements in their understanding of educational content. Smithsonian Science Education Center’s Game Center offers a range of interactive experiences that aligns with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Our games closely associate in-game player actions to an improved understanding of the topics associated with these standards. For example, Webby nominated Aquation directly lines up with NGSS Earth Science standards, highlighting that freshwater is a finite resource while assessing students on their ability to manage this resource on a world-wide scale.

Systems Thinking

Science and math games provide students with the ability to interact with complex systems. Games give students opportunities to formulate and evaluate their unique strategies, opening up the opportunity to express higher order thinking skills as well as reducing their fear of failure. Games provide students with the ability to try out new roles and perspectives of people who interact within a similar environment in a real-world context. Disaster Detector, available in the Game Center, has students take on the roles of a meteorologist and city planner, simulating the process of predicting and preparing for natural disasters. Players become acquainted with the systems that cause natural disasters and how to measure the impact with simulated tools, reflective of their real-world counterparts.

Making Connections

The educational experience does not need to stop after students finish playing the game. Students can collaborate with their classmates to share their preferred strategies or what they learned about the game’s underlying systems. Teachers and students can compare and contrast the game environment with other academic models, providing opportunities for the class to assess the game for accuracy. Additionally, providing students with an ability to create their own educational games for classmates—digital or nondigital, allows them to move beyond the player role and gives an opportunity for them to both master and convey important concepts with a personalized approach.

Technical FAQ

Q: Why does the game tell me to install Flash Player?

A: Adobe Flash Player is required for the web versions of BumperDucks, Disaster Detector, and Shutterbugs: Wiggle and Stomp. As of January 2021, Flash is no longer supported by Adobe or any modern web browser. Therefore, we recommend downloading these games on mobile devices for the best experience.

Q: Why does the game tell me to install Unity Web Player?

A: Unity Web Player, which can be downloaded from, is required for Showbiz Safari. Unity Web Player is only compatible with Mozilla Firefox and Safari, so we recommend switching to one of these web browsers.

Q: I have a question about SSEC games that isn’t answered here. How do I get in touch with the SSEC?

A: You can submit a question using the Contact Us form on our website.