Category: Blog

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
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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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Byzantine Empire Joins Excavate! Social Studies Game Series

A Byzantine Empire Game for the Social Studies Classroom

Our latest expansion to our long-running Excavate! social studies and archaeology game series arrives today! Play Excavate! Byzantine on the web, Android devices, or iOS devices for $3.99. If you want more than one civilization, contact us to request bundle pricing.

Byzantine brings out total number of games up to six. Previously, the Excavate! series included Rome, Egypt, Mesopotamia, MesoAmerica, and Greece. Like its predecessors, Excavate! Byzantine includes C3-aligned gameplay and companion teacher resources. For specifics, you can find out more on the main page for the game. 

Analyze Artifacts and Discover the Byzantine Empire

Byzantine game tasks students with archaeology and socials studies analysis

Dig-It! Games CEO Suzi Wilczynski, a former middle school teacher, designs the Excavate! games. Through engaging gameplay and challenging analysis, the series aims to take students on entertaining and educational archaeological adventures through time and around the world. By using archaeologists’ tools, players uncover real artifacts from ancient cultures.

First, the game gets players immediately in the dirt, evaluating the proper tool to use while learning about the scientific process of excavation. Through this, players learn concepts such as stratigraphy, context and the importance of proper recording. Next, analysis takes center stage as players learn about the significance of the artifacts they collect and gain a deeper understanding of ancient people through what they left behind. Each civilization includes 3D artifacts and detailed illustrations of ancient life to immerse the user in each unique culture.

“We are pleased to be adding this new world history civilizations to the popular series after recently updating our previous content to align to C3 standards to make a more effective teaching tool” says Wilczynski. “Through its expansive content and flexible applications, Excavate!™ provides a high-quality resource for educators across their full World History Curriculum.”

Explore and Experience Byzantine Life

Excavate! Byzantine game has students analyze artifacts using archaeology and social studies knowledge

Excavate! Byzantine takes students to the Hagia Sophia, the Imperial Palace, an oikos (or house), and a market to discover how the people of this civilization lived. While they analyze artifacts, students learn about the role of religion, family, military, and trade in the empire. In this way, students not only learn about life in the Byzantine Empire but also stretch their critical thinking skills.

Teachers, we also provide several helpful resources for creating lesson plans around Excavate! Byzantine. Look through the Teachers Guide, focus on Inquiry Analysis, and quiz your students with these Artifact Based Questions. Because we want to make the use of these games as easy as possible, we have similar resources for each of the games in the Excavate! series.

If you want more information, read the full press release here.

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Women’s History Month: Our Female Game Developers

Last year, during Women’s History Month, we featured many of our female game developers and other employees in short profiles over three separate blogs. In celebration of this year’s Women’s History Month, we re-share these profiles to show our appreciation of our talented employees and to showcase these successful women who have thrived in the gaming industry and other STEM-related fields.

Sara Platner

Sara, one of our female game developersGrowing up I was always pushed towards the math and sciences because I naturally good at them, but my heart always called to more creative pursuits. My mother gave me the wise advice that “If you do what you love for work, it’ll become your work and not what you love.” With that in mind, I applied to engineering programs across the east coast, before coming across a school that featured a Game Design and Development major. Although heavily computer science based, the major also taught design, animation, 3D modeling, audio, and narration. Instantly, I knew it was a perfect match: a field both technical and creative.

I loved college and consider it to be some of the best years of my life! Starting my freshman year, my major was 11% female: 22 girls to 220 boys. I would never have more than 4 girls in a core class, and my major’s labs were often entirely male. It might seem intimidating, but it really wasn’t. Guys are just guys, and I balanced them out by joining a sorority.

Since graduating from college, I’ve been working at Dig-It! Games creating science and history video games. Due to the small size of the company, I’ve been able to be involved in nearly every process: Development, Design, Research, Script Writing, QA, and Production. I would definitely encourage young women to pursue a career in the technology field. Obviously computer science is incredibly technical and difficult, but so is becoming a doctor or a lawyer; so is everything worth doing!

Melanie Stegman

Melanie, one of our female game developersI started learning to code in C# when I was 44 years old. While I learned some BASIC coding in high school, I found the whole process stupid and boring. While I knew that the Atari games I loved were created by programming, I couldn’t connect to it. My 17-year-old self wanted to solve important, complicated problems. Real, important problems that required creative thinking were problems like: What causes cancer? What makes us feel stressed out? How does stress affect our immune system? Could we optimize our immune system to fight cancer better?  So I threw myself into biochemistry. I loved it. I worked every single day for 3 years. Then, for the next 7 years, I decided to always take a whole ½ a day off every weekend.

Whenever I interacted with non-scientists, people always said the same two things to me: 1) You don’t look like a scientist and 2) I have no idea what you are talking about. The second statement bothered me more, because what I was talking about were things that effect everyone every single day: cells, receptors, molecules in our bodies. So, I decided the big complicated problem I would focus on would be teaching the average person how cells, receptors and molecules work. If everyone had this basic vocabulary then we could talk about health, the environment, and funding for research much more clearly.

At the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) as the Director of the Learning Technologies Program, I conducted research on learning and confidence gains in players of the game Immune Attack. I published my research, designed and developed a follow up game called Immune Defense. When the FAS decided not to work on learning games any longer, I chose to become an indie (independent) game developer.

The Transition to Game Development

Starting a career as indie game developer, I learned repeatedly that game development is difficult and time-consuming. Also, I learned (again) how difficult and time consuming writing grants can be. In November 2016, I started working at Dig-It Games. Here at DIG we share similar goals: make games that teach important concepts that people really enjoy playing. My brain is challenged, my colleagues are a ton of fun, and I learn new things every minute.

ExoTrex, a STEM-focused space exploration game

In my own time, I still work on my own molecular biology games. I continue to be a very happy “woman in tech.” And yeah, everyone still says I don’t look like a game developer, just like they used to say I didn’t look like a biochemist. Scientists and engineers on TV and movies still are usually men… the people doing the cool, meaningful things in stories are usually men. (Except for that fantastic Hidden Figures book/movie!)

Let me just tell you, it is a lot easier to ignore those voices of doubt when you have colleagues around you who treat you with respect. Find a place where people respect you, and don’t try to tough it out in an unfriendly environment. There are many places looking for people who enjoy solving problems, who help their colleagues face new problems. Wherever you are now you are gaining experiences that you can use in the future for solving new problems. Keep learning and keep looking for new jobs.

Just a thought: maybe we female tech people should wear shirts saying “This is what a game developer, graphic artist, QA expert, educational technical researcher, CEO looks like!”

Suzi Wilczynski

Suzi, our female CEOEverything I know about entrepreneurship I learned from my mother.  Ok, that may be a slight exaggeration, but the fact is, most of what I needed to know to found an educational gaming company I really did learn from my mother, without either of us truly intending it.

My mom never developed a game, but she incorporated all the parts of good educational game design into her work teaching students with learning disabilities: building skills, measuring and rewarding progress, engaging all types of learners, and developing age-appropriate content and expectations.  Her example has helped me build games that are recognized by industry experts as seamlessly blending fun and learning and that fill a gap in the market for authentic, skills-based, interactive games that are tailored for how middle school students think and learn.

I learned many things from my mother, but perhaps the most important is one of the most basic qualities of entrepreneurship: perseverance.  My mom went from being a part time tutor to founding and running the Study Skills department at a prominent private school.  She believed profoundly in her mission and overcame many challenges and obstacles to accomplish her goals.  Her example was inspirational for me as I founded and grew my business.

I did not set out to be a business owner.  I started out as a teacher looking for a tool for my middle school classroom, but I couldn’t find one.  So I built it, thus starting my new career as the owner of a tech startup.

Dig-It! Games logo in female game developers profile post

Starting Dig-It! Games

I founded Dig-It! Games because I want to change how history and science are taught.  My vehicle is largely archaeology, but my purpose is to truly make a difference in how we think about education.  I chose archaeology as a tool because it’s something I’m passionate about, but also because archaeology is a combination of science and humanities.  It’s my belief that if we introduce kids to the scientific process in a non-threatening way, they will have more confidence in math and science classrooms.

By way of archaeology, we can teach kids how to think–how to analyze, think critically, process information, communicate findings–skills that are the building blocks of all learning. Through our archaeology and history games games kids learn scientific process and historical analysis skills, while improving reading comprehension and building historical knowledge, all in a way that sparks their imagination and engages their attention.  Learning should be fun–Dig-It! Games is on a mission to ensure that it is.

Women in Tech: To Aspiring Female Game Developers and More

Words from Suzi Wilczynski

To all the young women out there who want to pursue careers in STEM or who dream of being entrepreneurs: the best thing you can do is explore.  Try everything.  Try things that stretch your limits and push you out of your comfort zone.  Attempt things you think you’d never in a million years have an interest in—you might be quite surprised.  Explore multiple fields and experiment with new ones.  Think creatively about where you fit and how to best use your skills.  Not everyone is good at everything; it’s ok to decide something isn’t your thing, as long as you don’t give up on exploring other options.

Excavate! Rome, one of Dig-It's social studies archaeology gamesA key thing to remember is that failure is part of the learning process.  So often we are taught that failure is a stopping point when in fact it’s actually the best way to grow.  We learn so much more from failure than from success, but schools, and society, are not built around that concept.  So don’t be afraid to try new things.  You will fail at some of them, but then you’ll pick yourself up, evaluate what you learned and try again.  The great secret of success is that it’s a process, there’s no straight line and every path is different.  You may have to try a lot of things and fail often to find your path, but as long as you keep at it, consider yourself a success.

In Summary

It’s important to remember that, even though they are underrepresented, women are welcomed and can thrive in technological fields. As time goes on, demand increases for female game developers, female biochemists, female archaeologists, female programmers and more. Diversity helps create better products after all! Dig-It! Games encourages all girls out there to pursue their dreams, whatever they might be.

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Women’s History Month: Female Rulers from World History

World History and Women’s History Month

As we begin Women’s History Month 2018, we take a look back through world history to discover the powerful female rulers of ancient civilizations. In Egypt, Byzantium, and Maya, women served as pharaohs, empresses, and queens. Some made extremely important accomplishments for their respective civilizations.

Hatshepsut: The Female Pharoah

Women's History Month: Remembering HatshepsutHatshepsut’s reign as pharoah began in 1479 B.C. and lasted over two decades until 1458 B.C. She ruled for the longest out of any of Egypt’s female rulers. Egyptologists consider her to be the most successful female ruler in ancient Egypt. In fact, many consider her one of Egypt’s most successful rulers overall. However, after her death, others tried to erase most evidence of her reign.  This fascinating Ted Ed talk goes in to how her time as pharaoh was erased by those who succeeded her on the throne. Details about her life didn’t begin to arise until the 19th and 20th century and evolved over time to recognize her accomplishments. Our modern understanding of Hatshepsut is far different than it used to be.

The only portrayals of Hatshepsut as a woman come from her early years on the throne. Later on, statues and likenesses portrayed her as a man, complete with the traditional fake beard that many pharaohs wore. Ambitious building projects and a trading expedition to the land of Punt that brought back exotic goods like ivory and incense mark notable points of her reign.

Teach your students about Hatshepsut with this lesson plan comparing her rule to Ramses II from the UCI History Project. Alternatively, go through all of Egypt’s greatest rulers, including Hatshepsut with a lesson from PBS.

Theodora: Empress of Byzantine

Women's History Month: Remembering Theodora of ByzantiumTheodora rose to power after being born into the lowest class of Byzantine (or Eastern Roman) society. She began her life on the outskirts of the empire with her father, an animal trainer. After her father’s death, Theodora became an actress to support the family. However, this scandalous profession made it so Theodora had to scramble and seize every chance to move up in society. Her future husband Justinian began his life from similarly humble roots and changed a law forbidding his marriage to a former actress in order to marry her. Their origins are explained in this great Extra History video which also includes many more videos on parts of their reign.

The husband and wife ruled as equals. Theodora guided Justinian through religious unrest during his rule and passed laws to expand the rights of women. Even after her death, her influence remained evident in Justinian’s later rule where he continued to strive to help women and other persecuted groups.

Get your students to learn more about Theodora with a large amount of resources from Teachers Pay Teachers.

The Powerful Queens of Maya

Women's History Month: Remembering Queens of MayaWe learn more and more about the queens of Maya as time goes on, and much of their lives remain undiscovered. Lady Yohl Ik’nal is the first recorded female ruler in Maya history and one of a few to bear a full royal title. Also, Lady Six Sky oversaw the city of Naranjo, commissioning several monuments and engaging in conquest during her reign. Finally, Lady K’abel, whose likely tomb was discovered in 2012, served as queen and military governer of the Wak kingdom.

Whether or not the queens of Maya were sometimes “warrior queens” is still a subject of archaeological study. In 2014, sculptures discovered in Naachtun showed both kings and queens as conquering heroes. Either way, they likely wielded considerable power at points in the history of Maya

For a historical fiction account of the lives of Maya’s queens, try out the Mists of Palenque series of books. For a general lesson plan on Maya civilization, check out some Scholastic resources.

Discovering the Role of Women through Archaeology in our Excavate! Series

Excavate! Byzantine portfolio image for social studies game

While our Excavate! games don’t focus on specific rulers, each one explores the role of women in ancient societies. Learn more by playing Excavate! Egypt, Excavate! Byzantine, Excavate! Mesoamerica, or any of our other three civilizations! If we missed one of your favorite examples of female rulers from history in this Women’s History Month post, let us know!

Learn about women through history and more!
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Snow Days, Game Days *Update*

February can be the snowiest month and this year is no different. Schools are more cautious than ever about student safety and this results in a ton of delays and cancellations. As a teacher, this can be incredibly frustrating as end of year testing is looming. As parents, you are scrambling to find something for you kids to do all day. Hopefully this post will help.

Communication tools for teachers on snow days

Communication tools for teachers

It’s easier than ever (almost too easy) to be in communication with the school community. These are some tried and true student/family communication apps:

  • Remind – After signing up for text message alerts, teachers can easily send mass emails to their families. It also has a chat feature (and there’s no exchanging of phone numbers).
  • Email – Teachers, if you don’t have your parents set up as groups in your emails, please do so! It’ll make your life so much easier!
  • ClassDojo – easy way to see information about the student and communicate with the teacher.
Students go out and play on snow days

Playtime in the snow!

We all have seen the research that says kids don’t get to play enough. Some of the best memories are made on snow days when everyone is snowed in together. So tell your students to get out there and build forts, throw snowballs, make snow angels and maybe do some science experiments. Then come back in and warm up with some indoor activities.

Our educational games can help teachers keep students on track on snow days

Let them play video games!

Last year we wrote this blog post for teachers about using video games to keep students active in material. Having a resources page on either Google Classroom or your LMS, or your website is always a good idea. Keeping it relevant to the current lesson is also a good idea, but not always necessary. Video games pass the time quickly and can encourage curiosity and love of learning. Check out our Excavate! Series of games to allow your student to become an archaeologist and also our ExoTrex series for the older kids.

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Enjoy the snow!

Having students show what they did and learned on their snow day can be so much fun and very inspirational to other students. Using a platform like FlipGrid or Google Slides allows students to share their experiences in their own words. We all know the importance of  fostering an environment of curiosity and fun so that students continue their love of learning.

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Chinese New Year Arrives in Silk Road Match 3

Join your trusty camel Matthias on the Silk Road to celebrate the beginning of the Year of the Dog in Silk Road Match 3™ during our Chinese New Year event! Enjoy the same addicting match 3 gameplay with the addition of new backgrounds, a new festive look for boosters, and a new style for Matthias.

A Chinese New Year Celebration
Chinese New Year Silk Road Match 3New, colorful app icon
Chinese New Year Silk Road Match 3

A hat for Matthias and a firecracker bomb booster

Chinese New Year Silk Road Match 3
Lanterns all over the map
Chinese New Year Silk Road Match 3
An event-exclusive splash screen

The special event features will launch in early February, before the Lunar New Year on February 16, and last through a date in March. Players can take that time to appreciate the many changes and additions that the event gives the original game. Keep a good eye on your app’s icon in the upcoming days. If you do, you’ll see it change when the Chinese New Year event goes live!

A Unique Match 3 Adventure

Now’s the best time to start your journey down the Silk Road. Grab your camel and travel the ancient trade route from Rome to China during the 1st century AC. As you trade coins and visit important cities, you will build your reputation as a master trader. As you travel the 6,000km Silk Road, you will experience the sunny Mediterranean, arid deserts, high mountains and the Asiatic Steppes.

Your trusty camel companion Matthias will guide you along the treacherous route through the Roman, Parthian, Kushan and Han Empires. Visit famous cities, interesting villages and trading posts full of exotic goods. Each empire has their own coins, so you must be certain to use the right ones. Otherwise, you’ll be chased out of town by the gate guards!

Match these ancient coins to unlock puzzles at each stop and build your reputation. Can you earn a high enough status to gain admittance to the next Empire? They won’t let in just anyone; only traders with excellent reputations are allowed to travel the whole route. However, with Matthias by your side, you will be able to realize your goal of becoming the most famous trader on the Silk Road!

Silk Road Match 3 Updates Coming Soon!

We are still bringing updates to Silk Road Match 3 with levels coming soon that will take players to the gates of the Han Empire. Collect brand new ingredients and challenge the guard that blocks your entrance into the last leg of the Silk Road.

Silk Road Match 3 Han Empire guard

Challenge the guard at the gates!

Silk Road Match 3 Han Empire ingredients

Try new ingredients like cinnamon and pomegranate

Silk Road Match 3 is available for Android and iOS devices and is also playable on Facebook. After the Chinese New Year concludes, players can still look forward to more special events coming this year! Make sure you also browse through our full game catalog.

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Game Reviews are Pouring In For Excavate

Students deliver their game reviews on Excavate! Greece and confirm that game based learning belongs in the classroom.

One of the great things about working at Dig-iT! Games is that we hear from some of the toughest customers: students! As teachers incorporate our Excavate! games into their classes, we have been hearing some insightful and encouraging feedback from their charges. Recently, we received some game reviews from a group of energetic sixth graders in Maryland, after they played Excavate! Greece. When their teachers asked if they should incorporate the game into their classes in the future, the students were highly enthusiastic.

Games in the Classroom are Fun!

“I think you should use it in the future because it was fun for me, so I think that it would be fun for other students too. Also you get to learn a lot, and you are having fun while you’re learning so overall it makes the class really fun.”

 “Fun” is definitely a core component of the game and also very important to this student!

In addition, many other students echoed that Excavate! Greece was not only fun but also somehow different from other learning games…

…You can interact, it’s not boring as other learning games, and it teaches you by doing something fun.

…it is fun learning and not boring. It is not just one part, so you’re not bored. You can learn a lot in a short period.

…I think students would be more eager to learn if they think that they get to do something fun.

Based on these game reviews, it looks like there may have been an underlying expectation that educational video games were boring to play.  We are glad to see that Excavate! Greece breaks that mold, but let’s dig a little deeper to find out what is making this game so fun for students…

“...it is a fun game, you learn about Greece, and you get to participate in the digging of the artifacts.”
“…it was very entertaining. It didn't bore me, in fact I played it multiple times, it was exciting digging up old artifacts and finally, I wasn't just using one tool you had to use multiple tools.”
“...the activities were fun to play and pretend like we were there...the digging activity was fun and interesting to pretend like we actually were digging up the artifacts...they have you act like your digging up artifacts and writing down facts like some people have as a real job.”

It looks like the digging mechanic in Excavate! is a hit!

Learning through Games

Some learning video games are really fun, but educators must evaluate if they meet standards and facilitate valuable learning experiences.  Our Excavate! games are packed with rich curriculum-aligned content. Student performance outcomes are aligned to the C3 Framework of Social Studies State Standards.  However, the real question to ask is whether students recognize they are learning while playing…

…it teaches us about ancient artifacts, it teaches us about how the cultures lived, and it teaches us what they had in their time.

…you learn about ancient artifacts and how [people] used to live.

…it is a really fun way of learning about ancient objects.

But take heed, students will have to do some work in the game to get the biggest benefit.  Take advice from this experienced player.

“You should continue to use this game in the future because it is educational, but you need to make sure that the kids read everything in the analysis questions and the journal. Another reason you should continue is because it teaches kids how to examine artifacts, and lastly what things went on in Greece.

Teachers are always reminding students to read directions and informational text, but it is heartening to see that this student recognized that it was crucial for success in playing Excavate! Greece.

We hope you will take a moment to play Excavate! Greece now and in the future after reading these Excavate! reviews.  But don’t take our word! We think the following student summed it up succinctly when asked whether the game should be incorporated into the class again:

“Yes because the future classes will love it. It’s fun to play. It’s cool!

Try Excavate! Greece for Yourself!

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Uncovering Ancient Rome: Did You Know?

Ancient Rome has fascinated and intrigued people for centuries. It’s easy to understand why: tyrannical leaders, wars, gladiators, and the rise of a vast empire. Hollywood has helped to fuel this fascination with interpretations of stories and people from this time period. However, many times movies and TV shows stretch the truth a bit to make things even more interesting. Here are a few great facts you can bet on to be true:

An artifact featured in Excavate! RomeGladiator Recovery Shake

Gladiators might have had a special “recovery” drink. According to this article from NPR, the bones of gladiators were found to have a higher level of calcium. While the cause isn’t totally known, Pliny the Elder was quoted as writing, “Your hearth should be your medicine chest. Drink lye made from its ashes, and you will be cured. One can see how gladiators after a combat are helped by drinking this.” Many believe that the ashes of charred plants were mixed into a drink that helped to boost their calcium to build stronger bones.

An artifact used in Ancient RomeBaths Are for More than Bathing

The baths were for more than just bathing. Public bath houses were a large part of ancient Roman daily life. Romans would progress through a ritual of dipping in pools of differing temperatures. In place of soap, they (or their slaves) would rub oil on their bodies and scrape the dirt away with a tool called a strigil. Other than a way to get clean, the baths offered an opportunity for people to network with each other and relax. This article from LiveScience discusses some of the items found in the drains of Roman Baths. Jewelry, plates and cups, animal bones, and even scalpels have been recovered showing evidence of more than just bathing.

An example of a jug used in Ancient RomeSecond Floor with a View

Who doesn’t love a penthouse view? In modern apartment buildings, the higher the floor you live, the more expensive it becomes. The top floor is supposed to have the best view and the largest space. Take this idea and flip it around when it comes to Roman apartments. These buildings, called Insulae, were built quickly and cheaply to house the ever-growing population of Rome. Though most contained only five levels, some reached up to nine. The fear of collapse and fire was real since it happened often. The top floors were usually the most cramped and did not have running water!

An example of a birdcage from RomeFor the Birds

Wealthy Romans lived in individual houses called Domus. One interesting aspect of daily life of wealthy Romans was that they had pets! Dogs were very popular with Romans. The Greyhound and Maltese were two very popular breeds. Birds were also prized – many Romans domesticated nightingales, magpies, and ravens because they could be taught to speak.  However, many exotic species were imported such as peacocks and parrots and kept is beautifully decorated cages.

 

These facts can all be discovered in Dig-iT! Games’ new Excavate! Rome game, along with many more that reveal the complexities of Roman society. Players take on the role of archaeologist and choose which location to dig in (the Colosseum, Baths, Domus, or Insula). At each site, they will uncover and analyze precious artifacts that tell the interesting and intriguing story of ancient Rome. In addition, we have our Excavate! Card Game for ancient Rome that allows students to put their knowledge of ancient Rome to the test. What facts do your students love to learn about the Romans?

A promotional image for Excavate! Rome

 

 

 


Experience Mesopotamia, Don’t Just Teach It!

Students often ask when they will use what they are learning in school or how a topic actually relates to their own lives.  This can be particularly challenging while teaching about the daily life of Mesopotamia over 5,000 years ago.

An image of a chariot, technology invented in Mesopotamia

We usually start with the contributions of the Sumerians, Assyrians and Babylonians.  They were amazing civilizations since they developed agriculture, invented the wheel, created city-states, organized militaries and laid down the law in the form of Hammurabi’s code.  We can even refer to top 10 lists of inventions that show that these civilizations were great and that they built the foundations of our modern life.  While it is obvious that we owe a debt of gratitude to their inventiveness, we still need to approach teaching these civilizations in a way that engages the modern student.

One approach is to focus on lesser-known aspects of these civilizations like the History Channel’s list of “9 Things You May Not Know About the Ancient Sumerians.”  You can impress students by highlighting that women were rulers, their cities were the size of modern cities and that they loved beer. However, in the end it may still feel like another list of irrelevant facts.

Another approach is to change how the information is taught.  Crash Course has created a great library of quick and informative YouTube videos. These can be used as a great preview at the start of a unit.  Their Mesopotamia video astutely proclaims that “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world monocular.”  You may grab student’s attention with pithy animation videos, but you may want to utilize interactive digital experiences too.

A stone image of Hammurabi, a king in MesopotamiaAlthough the selection of online interactives about Mesopotamia is not very robust, there is a variety in the types of experiences to be had.   There are basic interactives that essentially bring to life maps from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s textbooks.   There are also interactives that put students in the decision maker’s position like Philip Martin’s interactive Hammurabi’s code. In this interactive, students have to choose the appropriate punishment based on the codes.    The British Museum has an extensive interactive Mesopotamia site in which students can explore the geography, religion and technology of Babylonia, Assyria and Sumer.  Finally, students can also try their hand at playing the ancient game of Ur.

As you can see, there are many resources to engage your students online. However, all of these are missing a core component which is key to engaging students deeply.  Our understanding of history is always evolving based on new archaeological findings and the development of new scientific tools.  Why not engage your students in the process of discovering and debating what actually happened?

An image from Dig-iT Games' Excavate! Mesopotamia

History is discovery.  Here at Dig-iT! Games, we are committed to the discovery of history through archaeology.  We have just released Excavate! Mesopotamiaan interactive video game which provides a different way to look at Mesopotamian civilizations. The game challenges students to excavate artifacts, analyze them and then synthesize what they have learned. Students must closely examine artifacts and discover the purpose and significance of each one. This leads to a deeper understanding of the daily life in ancient Babylonia, Assyria and Sumer.

History is contested.  For example, new technologies have afforded insight into the possible role that shepherds played in trade in Mesopotamia. Previously, historians believed that nomadic shepherds were instrumental in facilitating international trade. They would travel widely in search of greener pastures for their sheep and goats.  But, new technologies have afforded new findings that are sparking controversy.  It’s possible shepherds actually stayed closer to cities to supply milk and fur and were out of the trade networks.  This article from Science Magazine highlights the debate. This is a great way to share with students the process of discovering history and the necessity of being critical of sources and processes used to reach conclusions.  Encourage critical thinking skills over the belief that history is a closed case!

We hope you find these resources helpful in engaging your students in the study, exploration and intellectual discussion concerning Mesopotamia.