Category: Blog

Stop Summer Learning Loss…While Having Fun!

As the school year rolls into the summer, we are all looking forward to warm weather and vacations. However, just because school is out doesn’t mean learning should come to a stop. Without any sort of academic practice, kids can experience summer learning loss which puts them at a disadvantage when the school year starts again. To combat this summer learning loss, fun activities, games, and events centered around learning are hugely necessary. On this post, we feature several ways to keep kids thinking hard during the long summer months.

Summer Learning Activities

summertime learning to stop summer learning loss

Summer learning doesn’t necessarily need to be traditional classroom learning. Activities that kids might not have had time for during the year can keep their minds active while providing something fun and different. Teach kids how to cook or set them to learning new arts and crafts that keep them creative.

Bringing them outside for science experiments or adventures can keep them active and soaking up the good weather while learning. After a good day outside, make your own ice cream to cool down or chill out in the AC for some reading time.

Essentially, it’s not neccesary to concoct whole lesson plans to stop summer learning loss. Simply make sure that activities get planned and resources are available to keep kids’ minds working and thinking creatively. For a full list of suggestions, We Are Teachers and Education World have specific resources for families in the summer. All of these are easy plans for a weekend excursion depending on parents’ work schedules.

Educational Shows & Videos

educational shows and programs can help stop summer learning loss

One of the benefits of modern technology is the sheer amount of educational programming you can find out there. However, not every source teaches effectively or impartially. Finding the right sources can be hard, especially if you rely on streaming services. We recommend a few unconventional services for various ages below. 

CrashCourse offers a literally crash course on almost every topic you could imagine. It began with a focus on history but expanded into science, literature, and more. The lessons are presented in comic form with cute figures and animations providing context for the actual facts being presented.

Khan Academy is a pretty well-known resource now, but it is still worth mentioning. The free service has everything you could possibly need, taught by experts in the field. It even includes test prep for students who want to start getting ready for SAT and other big tests over the summer.

As we’re a game company, we have a fondness for Extra Credits, a channel that not only covers topics in game design but also in history and science fiction. Like CrashCourse, they offer their lessons in animated form, but their videos focus on more specific topics rather than providing wider overviews. For kids who are fond of games, their main Extra Credits series offers a great way to learn about the industry and the inner workings of their favorite games. Speaking of which, games themselves offer ways to learn during the summer.

Game-Based Learning

Our educational games work well in classrooms, but they also can be used to keep learning going outside of it. Not only are educational games fun, they sneak learning in almost before you can realize it. Excavate! offers a fun way to delve into ancient cultures while ExoTrex literally rockets you into the future of space. 

Our games aren’t the only educational games out there and a quick web search will open up a whole host of games for kids of different ages to play. From TeacherGaming (whose Odyssey game we reviewed) to iCivics, our fellow game-based learning companies offer great products for combating summer learning loss.

Learn More About Summer Learning Loss

combat summer learning loss

The organization Summer Learning dedicates itself to combating summer learning loss in communities across America. Their website includes information on why summer learning matters and how summer learning loss can be harmful. For a summary of what exactly summer learning loss can entail, check out the statistics from Oxford Learning.

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Educational Escape Rooms: Benefits, Examples, & More!

What is an Escape Room?

It’s pretty likely that you’ve at least heard of escape rooms. Companies that run escape room puzzles have begun to crop up everywhere across the country. Nowadays, nearly 2,000 escape rooms exist, compared to twenty-two at the end of 2014, according to Room Escape Artist. Generally, these puzzles limit themselves within physical spaces where players must work together to escape from the locked enclosure. Players find pieces, move contraptions, solve riddles and more to make it out.

However, all the fancy mechanisms simply make up the aesthetic flair. Actually, creating an escape room or escape room-style puzzle is easy. All you need is something to unlock and some puzzles that players must solve that will help them unlock that something. While it may not end up as fancy, anyone can make an escape room around any topic. Including teachers! And including you!

Educational Escape Room Benefits

educational escape rooms are great in classrooms

Escape rooms teach valuable life skills that are highly applicable to education. A student needs to practice teamwork, time management, problem solving, focus under pressure, and respect. Escape rooms encourage all these valuable traits. Additionally, the puzzles that make up an escape room can be created around a theme which correlates to the class it’s presented in.

Of course, the implementation itself proves challenging sometimes as teachers must grapple with standards, classroom size, and class period length. Yet, there are a number of ways to combat this through using boxes instead of the room itself or using pre-made escape rooms from educational escape room companies.

“The concept of meaningful gamification is not to provide external rewards, but rather to help participants find a deeper connection to the underlying topic,” writes Scott Nicholson, a professor of game design and development at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada. Escape rooms provide motivation and give students a reason to try and understand and connect with the material.

Find Resources for Your Classroom

For making your own escape room, try out this advice from Classcraft. It has tips about how to use the physical space, how to make puzzles, how to order puzzles and more. Some subjects are harder to design than others since math has a lot of opportunities for puzzles and social studies less. However, it is possible to design for any subject.

Many companies also offer pre-made escape rooms that can be easily implemented into classrooms. Breakout EDU (which we talked about on a blog post before) is a great resource for finding games that can be brought to any subject, complete with provided locks and boxes for students to work with. The Escape Classroom is another option (they also have a mystery-style workshop!) and Lock Paper Scissors has simpler printable guides to use for easier set-up.

Educational Games Are Great Too!

Escape the room or catch a thief

Our educational games were designed with C3 standards in mind for math, social studies, and STEM classes. While not as physical as escape rooms, bringing game-based learning in to the classroom is also a great way to give students motivation and engage them with learning. Our upcoming game Roman Town 2 casts the player as Team Q. They collect clues and solve puzzles to track down a thief rather than escape. However, the concept of solving problems remains the same!

If you’d rather get something for yourself, make sure to keep an eye on Roterra, our upcoming map-traversal puzzle game. Roterra will challenge your own mind and keep your brain working. Follow along with its development by signing up to be a beta tester on the game by going to the game page.

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Game Review: Odyssey, Available on TeacherGaming Desk

Odyssey- A Science Puzzle Game

Recently, our fellow educational gaming company TeacherGaming provided us access to one of the many games they support through their Desk (more on that later). Odyssey, a science puzzle adventure game from the Young Socratics, teaches scientific reasoning in astronomy, physics, and more. However, lessons take the shape of puzzles as players embark on a journey through the “Wretched Islands” to rescue a girl and her family. By reading engaging journal entries and solving challenging puzzles, the player reconstructs, proves, and disproves the ideas and arguments of history’s most famous scientists and philosophers.

The game leads players across the several islands through a series of puzzles. As more advanced concepts are introduced, puzzles escalate in difficulty. Hints appear in journal entries left behind by the family in need of rescue. Puzzles range from demonstrating that the Earth is a sphere to proving a heliocentric model of the universe. However, the game balances demanding puzzles with the immediate satisfaction of being able to smash boxes, ride on ziplines, and knock down walls.

Fun, Motivational, and Educational

The game remains enjoyable throughout the 2-4 hour experience, despite a large amount of reading and high demand for careful thinking. Even though I played most of it in one long stretch, I never felt burnt out. For students who would likely play the game over a series of classes, it shouldn’t be a concern.

Reading the journals in Odyssey never got tedious simply because it felt like someone had actually written them. Thirteen-year-old Kai, a clumsy but precocious girl, with a deep interest in her father’s work and a desire to understand the world around her, held the game together. Even the most technical parts of the journal are imbued with a clear, charming voice. The player gets a purpose through these journals. They aren’t learning just because- they must learn all this in order to help Kai escape. That motivation provides a drive to get through the more difficult puzzles. I can imagine that Kai could provide a point of inspiration for young students, as well. Her enthusiasm for learning can be contagious.

Students want educational games because they’re fun and motivational, not just because they’re games. At the same time, teachers want educational games because they serve as good reinforcement. Odyssey sits among that good group of learning games that delivers an experience that teaches while it entertains.

The game is available with our without the TeacherGaming desk option.  Educators looking to include this in their lesson planning will want to consider using lesson options from eight lesson plans available from the TeacherGaming Desk (more information below) 

TeacherGaming

In 2011, two university students from Finland founded TeacherGaming. Initially, the project focused on working Minecraft into an educational game with clear direction for classroom use. Their MinecraftEdu project formed the basis for Microsoft’s Minecraft: Education Edition. Since then, they grew and expanded their range but, as they say on their website, their focus remains on enabling educators to use games for learning with their students, “no matter the skill level.”

TeacherGaming Desk for teachers and students in game based learning

This drive manifested the TeacherGaming Desk. The Desk can be accessed through subscription to a catalog of 30+ games or through the purchase of just one of these wide array of learning games. Also, it offers a way to keep track of student progress for teachers. With a team of educators at the helm, TeacherGaming helps easily connect its catalog to curriculum, with the help of lesson plans and analytics.

Teacher Scaffolding through the Desk

TeacherGaming learning games help students practice critical thinking and teachers bring new ideas into the classroom

To really bring an educational game into the classroom, however, the teacher needs to know how to use it effectively. There needs to be some measure of scaffolding. TeacherGaming provides this with an interface that makes it easy to see how far students have progressed in the game. Additionally, each game comes with lesson plans written by their team of teachers. Lesson plans split the games up based on their content, and the teacher is provided with ways to integrate the game into their curriculum.

The lessons walk students through the required theory as well as actual gameplay. Additionally, they suggest topics to guide discussion at the end of each session. By providing this reinforcement, students gain more from their time playing the game. Additionally, teachers see just how much their students were able to gain from playing the game.

We look forward to seeing what TeacherGaming works on next (hint: it’s Cities: Skylines). Find out more about their games and mission on their website. If you’re all caught up on this blog, make sure to check out theirs! Plenty of awesome content is up there.

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Puzzles and Their Positive Effect on the Brain

Do you start each day with the newspaper’s crossword puzzle? Or do you prefer putting together jigsaw puzzles with your kids or with family members on vacation? Have you ever thought about why you enjoy challenging yourself in that way or how it might be helping you? Puzzles serve a very important purpose when it comes to brain health. Due to our love of problem-solving, it’s no wonder that puzzles have been around for so long.

History of Puzzles

Puzzles and puzzle games

 

Logic puzzles likely stretch back thousands and thousands of years through human history. Certainly, humans have always been figuring new things out- from how to make fire to how to shoot a rocket into space. However, the first jigsaw puzzles appeared in the 1760s as mapmakers cut up maps and pasted them on to wood. This history of puzzles takes you through the growth of the jigsaw puzzle industry.

Recently, puzzle games have grown popular, from escape rooms to video games. In a poll conducted September 2017, over 60% of frequent video game players stated that they regularly played puzzle video games. Strategy video games followed close behind with the next genre being adventure at below 50% of players. Escape rooms have also begun cropping up all over the United States. Compared to only 22 companies at the end of 2014, now enthusiasts can find nearly 2,000 according to Room Escape Artist.  In fact, educators even use escape room-style lessons to help engage their students in a variety of material in different subjects.

Why do we love puzzles so much? Also, why are they so helpful in education for both kids and adults? Keep reading to discover the appeal of puzzles and how they can help our brains grow.

Challenge and Satisfaction

puzzles and puzzle games

 

Humans have always been problem-solvers, so it would be fair to say that the desire to put together “puzzles” has always been inherent to humanity. In fact, engaging in puzzle solving may even be good for long-term cognitive health.

Studies show that completing crosswords could delay the onset of early dementia by two years. Additionally, taking part in various kinds of cognitive activities, including puzzles, can lessen the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s. It seems to be the combination of activities that is key. By providing our brains new challenges, we are able to keep our brains healthy and functioning for longer periods of time.

Of course, it is nearly impossible for studies to narrow down the sole cause to puzzle solving, but it can’t be denied that it can’t hurt!

Puzzles can also help young children with physical, cognitive, and emotional skills. With a jigsaw puzzle, kids practice hand-eye coordination and motor skills. Also, puzzles help kids with memory, problem-solving, and shape recognition. Finally, emotional skills include patience and setting goals. All of these are vital skills for kids to practice early in life. Puzzles help a lot with that!

The Puzzling World of Roterra

Roterra: A Puzzling Fairytale

 

Our upcoming game Roterra makes use of manipulable cubes and rejects the laws of gravity to craft a challenging experience for puzzle lovers. The versatility of the world and the puzzles it presents makes sure that players never grow bored. We only recently announced Roterra to the world, and we’re incredibly excited it.

With satisfyingly tough games in such high demand and showing such great benefits, we hope that our game finds a home among puzzle lovers. Stay tuned for updates coming soon on the iOS title right here or on our social media. We’ve been using our background in educational games to make a satisfying experience for all players. If you’d like to get behind-the-scenes access, make sure you sign up to be a possible beta tester on the main page at http://playroterra.com

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Spanish Translation for Excavate! MesoAmerica Game Free This Month!

While the Aztecs, Incas and Mayan did not celebrate Cinco de Mayo, it’s still a great day to learn about MesoAmerican history! Our Excavate! MesoAmerica social studies game updated recently to include a Spanish translation.  This new version features the same great gameplay as the English-language version. However, the translation opens this archaeology adventure up to more students across the country and world. With the option to switch back and forth between languages, the game also works well in teaching reading comprehension for both English and Spanish.

The game runs on the web, Android devices, and iOS devices and can be bought for $3.99. However, for the month of May, get the game for free to celebrate this new translation!

Why a Spanish Translation?

Spanish Translation screenshot from MesoAmerica game

By supporting a Spanish translation of the MesoAmerica edition, we hope that more classrooms can experience our biggest game based learning series. With a Spanish translation, the game fits into Spanish immersion schools, language classes, and more! Since we aim for our educational tools to be available to as many different students as possible, we hope the translation opens the doors for more students to experience Excavate! MesoAmerica.

In Excavate! MesoAmerica, students analyze three significant locations tied to the Aztec, Inca, and Maya cultures. As journals record their progress, students progress through three sites tied to Inca, Aztec, and Maya culture. At each location, students make meaning of how artifacts were used through a series of analysis questions and reports. By completing these tasks, students make connections and deduce facts about the people who lived, worked and played there. In this way, you consider the historical context of the primary source artifacts and make connections. During the game, players learn about the significance of jade and obsidian for the Maya, distinguish the role of gods in Incan society, and gain perspective on Aztec engineering.

Why the Excavate! Games?

Spanish Translation screenshot for Excavate! MesoAmerica game

The Excavate! games are designed by former middle school teacher and DIG-IT! Games CEO Suzi Wilczynski. Through engaging gameplay and challenging analysis, the series takes students on entertaining and educational archaeological adventures through tim. Using archaeologists’ tools, players uncover real artifacts from ancient cultures. Also, each civilization includes 3D artifacts and detailed illustrations of ancient life to immerse the user in each unique culture.

“The Excavate! games are just great! My students take turns to excavate with the tools, read the instructions and questions aloud, answer questions, discuss ideas, and complete the journaling,” said Samantha McClusky, an educator from Searsy, AR. “They are learning so much, and ask for me to teach them more!”

These educational games fit into grades 3-8 and correlate to Common Core State Standards (and equivalents) for ELA and The National Council for Social Studies C3 Framework. For easier analysis, the game includes the new educational game and app learning analytics standard GBLxAPI, which is improving learning data reporting in educational games and applications. Also, the Excavate! Games recently received high marks from the KOKOA evaluation method.

Now, take the chance to grab Excavate! MesoAmerica for your classroom while it’s free this month!

While learning about MesoAmerica today, check out the real history of Cinco de Mayo (often misinterpreted!): http://time.com/4313691/cinco-de-mayo-history/

You Might Also Be Interested In These Spanish-Language Resources:

Spanish Playground: Spanish for kids! This website features all kinds of activities for every aspect of learning the language.

Espanglish: For those in the DC area, meet up with other adults learning Spanish!


Game-Based Learning in the Classroom: What’s the Point?

Game-Based Learning in the Classroom

We think game-based learning pushes students to get more invested in learning. By utilizing games, teachers motivate students to try harder through competition and interactivity. However, the tools understandably intimidate many teachers new to using technology in the classroom. On this post, discover how game-based learning works in the classroom and how it benefits students. Also, find sources to discover more about the subject.

What is Game-Based Learning?

Game-Based Learning in the classroom- what is it?

Game-based learning grows in popularity with each passing year. With an increasingly digital society, more and more teachers look for new ways to engage their technologically-minded students. Games provide a method for students to connect with their learning materials. Also, they offer a safe space for students to fail and learn from failure.

However, not all game-based learning experiences work for everyone. The definitions above help in understanding the basic concept, but an effective experience comes from a capable teacher. Rather than replacing teachers, educational games partner with good teachers to create an awesome lesson both fun and helpful. Games teach not only facts but skills. By virtue of being digital, games bring opportunities to have unique experiences that would be hard to replicate in physical form. Additionally, games provide a framework for assessing student performance in applying lessons. More diverse than straight tests, games gather impartial data on student performance that can be fed back to the teacher.

Bear in mind, different games work for different classes.

How Can I Use Game-Based Learning in the Classroom?

Game-based learning in the classroom - how to use it?

Flexible and varied, teachers use game-based learning in the classroom to achieve many goals. Games help teachers provide new material in an interesting way, conduct assessments, or motivate students to work harder. Clearly, the goal depends on the kind of class and the subject taught. By identifying the goal first, teachers tailor game choice towards these goals. That way, game-based learning offers the most benefit. Additionally, students enjoy it more when it feels purposeful in their education.

However, more importantly, games show success in meeting these educational goals.

What’s Good About Game-Based Learning?

Game-based learning in the classroom - what's good about it?

Game-based learning meets a variety of needs from teachers. More than half of teachers agree that game-based learning motivates low-performing and special education students. They get more involved in lessons and become more interested in learning. Read a teacher’s thoughts on how our Excavate! games gets her special-ed classroom interested in learning here. The review also touches on how game-based learning personalizes education. Other reasons cited above for using game-based learning include promotion of collaboration, independent learning, and the ability to deliver content from a distance.

Many games fall under national standards like Common Core. For example, our Excavate! games follow C3 standards for world history education. However, not every game works for standardized curriculum, so make sure the game works for your class.

What Do Other Teachers Say?

Game-based learning in the classroom - what do others think?

Many teachers welcome the tools into their classroom and find their students love it. Good educational learning developers provide frameworks for teachers to work with. For our Excavate! games and ExoTrex games, we offer free teacher’s guides and lesson plans to help use the games with students. Always make sure that you feel comfortable with a game before giving it to students. Game-based learning in the classroom starts with a good teacher. No matter how good the game, it needs a teacher to guide students through learning.

How to Find Out More?

The statistics quoted in this blog come from Level Up Learning, a national survey about teaching with games in K-8. We highly recommend giving the whole report a read. Also, we offer this report on digital game-based learning in secondary education as another sources of information. Just a quick search on the web brings up tons of information and options for learning more about educational games.

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World History Explored Through Video Games

It makes sense that real world events have served as inspiration for many books, movies, and shows. After all, history is a story itself. Video games are no exception to using history as setting or plot, and they can be incredible ways to give detailed looks at ancient civilizations from Egypt to Mesoamerica. Check out this list of video games inspired by the history of the world!

Explore Ancient Egypt

Ancient world history is brought to life in Assassin's Creed Origins Discovery Tour Ubisoft

Assassin’s Creed Origins is the latest entry in the long-running Assassin’s Creed series from developer Ubisoft. However, it differs from previous installments thanks to the recent edition of the Discovery Tour. This mode allows the player to simply explore its Ancient Egyptian setting as either a character from the game or as a historical figure like Julius Caeser or Cleopatra.

The mode includes 75 guided tours that were crafted by Egyptologists and covers everything from the Great Pyramids to the daily lives of the citizens of Alexandria. Your character can even participate in the activities of the locals to truly understand how the people lived.

Discovery Tour launched on February 20, as a free update for owners of Assassin’s Creed Origins. You can purchase it as a standalone title for $20 as well.

Discover Mesoamerican Ruins

World history is fictionalized in Lost Ember from Mooneye Studios Mooneye Studios

While heavily fictionalized, Lost Ember is an upcoming game that will allow players to explore Mesoamerican ruins. The developer based the world on the history of the Inca and Maya civilizations. The player takes the form of a wolf who can inhabit other animals. This game emphasizes the diverse wildlife of Mesoamerica.

As players discover new ruins, they also learn more about this ancient civilization. While it will feature its own fictional civilization, the idea of archaeology giving insight into ancient life is very real. Comparing and contrasting the civilization of Machu Kila with the real Mayan and Incan civilizations could also be an interesting activity.

Lost Ember is yet to be released, but you can find out more about it on the Mooneye Studios website.

Understand Greek Myths

World history and myths are featured heavily in Age of Mythology Microsoft Studios

Greek mythology inspires many stories in books, movies, and games. Even Rome and Byzantium based their own myths on the Greek gods. Age of Mythology from Microsoft Studios is one such game which covers Greek myths as well as Egyptian and Norse myths.

Through its story, Age of Mythology lets players experience the fabled city of Atlantis, fight the Trojan War, and accompany Odysseus on his adventures. The gods and goddesses play an important role as well as different cities focus their worship on different gods, just as they did in ancient times. While the game is certainly not education-focused, it can get kids interested in the myths of Greece.

Age of Mythology is an older game, but it’s still available to buy through Steam. Find out more on its website.

Let Your Students Discover World History Through Educational Video Games

Excavate! Mesoamerica and the whole social studies series can help teach world history

These entertainment-focused video games aren’t the best for classroom learning. For that, look no further than our Excavate! series of games. Our six civilizations cover a wide variety of world history curriculum. Put your students in the shoes of archaeologists and let them enjoy C3-aligned gameplay.

In Excavate! Egyptstudents analyze artifacts from Giza, Alexandria, Karnak, and the Valley of Kings to understand the lives of ancient Egyptians. Excavate! Mesoamerica features sites from the Mayan, Incan, and Aztec civilizations and explores each unique culture. Meanwhile, Excavate! Greece compares and contrasts Athens and Sparta while also letting students learn religion at Delphi and sports at Olympia. Our other civilizations include Rome, Mesopotamia, and the Byzantine Empire.

Explore World History with Educational Video Games
Discover Excavate!

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Teaching Tools for the Byzantine Empire

In the late 400s AD, the Roman Empire came to an end after a long time of fracture and fragmentation. What survived after the fall became known as the Byzantine Empire or Eastern Roman Empire. While certainly not as famous as Rome, the Byzantine Empire wielded formidable power up to the Middle Ages in Europe. Today, it remains an important part of world history curriculum. However, what are some teaching tools that can be used to get students excited about learning Byzantine history?

Check out this list of resources to discover new ways to spice up lesson plans!

Artifacts & Museums

While actually taking students to a museum can be difficult, many museums put their collections online where they are easily viewed. Using these artifacts, teachers can encourage their students to do research about ancient civilizations and learn about the culture by drawing conclusions about their stuff.

The Met provides essays about the history as well as the art of the Byzantine Empire. Along with its provided writing, the website hosts online features from Helen Evans on the art of the time. Students explore the artifacts and receive additional information on the development of art from an expert.

The Museum of Byzantine Culture in Greece provides an English site complete with pictures of their collection. The museum’s collection numbers more than 46,000 artifacts which date from the 2nd to the 20th century. Students can take close up looks at the detail in some of the pieces as well as read the history and use of each one.

Lesson Plans and Teacher Materials

Teaching tools for the Byzantine Empire

Mr. Donn is a great source for all units of world history, the Byzantine Empire being no exception. His website offers free powerpoints, maps, and templates which can be helpful for putting together lessons on the subject.

If you want to focus on one aspect of Byzantine history in particular, we recommend Justianian and Theodora. These two are the most famous leaders of the empire. As part of one of our series of Women’s History Month blogs, we collected resources for teaching about powerful female leaders of history. Theodora featured on this list. For lessons about her, head over to that blog to get the resources you need.

Multimedia Teaching Tools

Excavate! Byzantine portfolio image for social studies game

To really bring something engaging to lessons, consider making use of videos or games to draw in student interest. By mixing traditional lecture with these media sources, all kinds of learners are served and can connect with the material. Otherwise, they miss out or stay uninterested.

Extra History makes awesome series on all sorts of topics, but they have entire playlist of Justinian and Theodora, the two most famous rulers of the empire (as previously mentioned). In addition to their policies and reforms, the videos cover their origins and more personal aspects of their stories.

Of course, our own Excavate! Byzantine just came out recently, and it serves as a great tool for teaching about the daily lives of Byzantine citizens. Students dig up artifacts and analyze them in order to draw conclusions about Byzantine culture. This includes religion, economy, home life, and governmental structure. Apply C3 skills in this middle school social studies game that brings the ancient civilization of the Byzantine Empire to life through archaeology. For your convenience, Excavate! Byzantine works for Apple, Android, and HTML5.

Additionally, all the Excavate! games come with supporting teacher materials for using the games in class. For a complete lesson, make sure to check out the Teacher Guide, Artifact-Based Questions, and Inquiry Analysis Questions.


Hopefully, these resources will help in putting together new lessons on the Byzantine Empire for middle school students. If you have any questions about our products, know that you can always contact us.

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Women’s History Month: Female Space Pioneers

Female Space Astronauts, Cosmonauts, and Mathematicians

As we continue through Women’s History Month, we take a look back at some female space pioneers. The women served in all kinds of roles from helping build rockets to riding in them. No matter their position, all the women featured here cemented their position in space history through their many accomplishments.

Katherine Johnson and the Mathematicians of NASA

At the beginning of World War II, the demand for aeronautical engineering began increasing exponentially. Langley Memorial Aeronautical Labratory began hiring women in 1935 to do number crunching. Margot Lee Shetterly’s 2016 book Hidden Figures told the stories of Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan along with many others. Additionally,  the critically acclaimed 2017 movie based on the book focused on these “human calculators.”

The women highlighted in Hidden Figures worked for NACA (later NASA) starting in the 40s and 50s. Through their math, they worked on making the flying machines better, stronger, and faster and calculating flight trajectories for important missions, including the Apollo missions.

NASA recognized Katherine Johnson specifically in 2017 through naming the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility after her. Without the research and dedication of Johnson and her contemporaries, NASA would not be the same as it is today.

The Very First Woman in Space

The first female space explorer- first woman in spaceValentina Tereshkova orbited the Earth 48 times and became the first woman in space in June of 1963. Before being chosen as a Soviet cosmonaut, she never even flew a plane. Rather, she was a textile worker and amateur parachute jumper. The latter skill earned her the job. After eighteen months of grueling training, she became the only woman out of five to be selected.

Beyond just being the first woman in space, she remains the only woman to ever fly a solo mission. Since her mission, Museum exhibits, stage plays, and documentaries celebrated her space legacy . Additionally, she carried the Olympic torch for part of its journey in both the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Sally Ride: Female Physicist and American Astronaut

The first American woman to go to space and the youngest astronaut everSally Ride blasted down barriers as she blasted into space in 1983 as the first American female astronaut to actually enter the final frontier. She served as a mission specialist on the STS-7 space shuttle mission. As a mission specialist on that flight, Ride worked a robotic arm to help release satellites into space.

After her time as an active astronaut, Ride continued to work in the STEM field, particularly in encouraging STEM education. She wrote books about space exploration and co-founded Sally Ride Science in 2001. Her work with the organization aimed to support students into careers within STEM, particularly girls and minorities. Through teacher training, books, festivals, classroom activities and more, she sought to transform the idea of what a successful scientist could look like. Even after her death in 2013, her legacy continues.

The Women of ExoTrex 2

ExoTrex2 stem game character concept of female space operativeWhen looking to engage students in STEM learning and space exploration, look no further than ExoTrex 2, a game that will test their physics, chemistry and critical thinking abilitities. Exotrex 2 is a beautifully rendered, STEM focused game that will challenge and engage your 8th – 10th grade science students.

The player partners with the AI Fiona and supervisor Dr. Estelle Burke, a female space pioneer herself, to find a new home for humanity. To complete this mission, students start by balancing speed, thrust, and acceleration while navigating gravitational fields to successfully land rovers on their chosen planet or moon. Also, they remotely navigate their rovers to collect ground and atmospheric samples and later analyze them for their chemical compositions.  Finally, Students will learn about the planetary characteristics of each destination and take observational notes in order to report their findings back to Dr. Burke. 

Help get your students passionate about space with these profiles of female space history-makers and by going hands-on with ExoTrex!

Get into Space with ExoTrex 2
Buy The Game
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Local Archaeology: Discoveries, Education, and More!

Archaeologists discover new findings every day across the world. Here, we take a moment to highlight discoveries and opportunities for those interested in archaeology around the DC Metro area. Based in Bethesda, MD, we at Dig-It! Games always try to keep up with what’s happening in archaeology around us. Bigger finds often overshadow local archaeology. However, archaeologists find tons of interesting things around Maryland, Virginia, and DC.

Alexandria’s Big New Discovery

Local archaeology in Alexandria led to the discovery of two ships on the waterfront

On the historic waterfront of Alexandria, archaeologists discovered the remains of two ships from the late 1700s or early 1800s. Just two blocks away, archaeologists found a similar ship at the Hotel Indigo site in late 2015. At the beginning of March, the City of Alexandria won a grant to preserve that ship from the Virginia Association of Museums. For these two new ships, examination and analysis still needs to take place. It has yet to be announced if these ships will be preserved.

Archaeologist discovered the ships on a site where developers JBG Smith and EYA are turning a former warehouse into townhouses and condos. The law of Maryland requires that developers have archaeologists on site whenever ground is disturbed.

“It wasn’t an unexpected discovery, especially since what we knew from the Hotel Indigo site,” Eleanor Breen, the city’s acting archaeologist, said. “I think there’s a high possibility of additional archaeological treasures to be found.”

We look forward to hearing about what those archaeological treasures might be! If you want, read the full story on the Washington Post for all the details about the excavation.

Local Archaeology Programs for Kids & Students

Get your kids into local archaeology with great programs

Do you know an aspiring archaeologist or just a kid who loves to dig? Around the DC area, you can find many opportunities for young excavators to learn the tools of the trade- literally! Check out these programs first to see if there’s a good fit for your student, child, or the whole family!

Archaeology in the Community, a Washington, DC, organization, aims to promote the study and understanding of archaeological heritage. In pursuit of this goal, they host public events, enrichment programs, and professional development. Additionally they offer a ton of regular youth activities as well as camps.

Also, the National Park Service offers regional archaeology programs in and around DC. They offer cool archaeology programs for youth, teachers, professionals, and others in a variety of locations around the metro area.

Finally, of course, check out the Alexandria Archaeology Museum and learn more about the newly discovered ships.

Game-Based Archaeology

Get your students into archaeology with Excavate!

While we don’t have an Excavate! DC, our series of social studies archaeology games serve as a great way to get students interested in world history and the process behind excavation. Through C-3 aligned gameplay, Excavate! fits into both the classroom and homeschooling curriculum.

Choose from a variety of civilizations with six currently available: MesoAmerica, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Egypt, and the Byzantine Empire. Additionally, bundles of civilizations release on the Apple App Store tomorrow for greater convenience. However, the games can also be purchased from Google Play, Amazon Appstore, and on our website.

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