Schools are gamifying science with this new STEM app

iNaturalist intends to gamify biology and is helping with new discoveries

A new app that lets users upload photos of insects and animals is aiding the discovery of new species, NPR reports.

Photos uploaded to the iNaturalist app are accompanied by a location, and from there, amateur and expert naturalists can examine the photos to identify the species.

One of the app’s developers told NPR that making science fun and gamifying it can be challenging when a “mixed crowd” wants both technical capabilities along with open-ended exploration.

Activities and tools such as this app, which can be used for amateur biologists but also for classroom purposes, might be key to engaging students in STEM subjects.

A large majority of teenage students said they are interested in science, but most instructional approaches fail to bring the subject matter to life in an engaging way, according to a new survey.

“Students on STEM: More Hands-on, Real-World Experiences,” from the Amgen Foundation and Change the Equation (CTEq), was conducted to better understand what motivates U.S. high school students to study STEM.

Surveyed students said they want additional opportunities that will inspire them to explore careers in scientific fields, and teachers are uniquely positioned to stimulate students’ interest in STEM.

The survey found that many teenagers like science and understand its value, but common teaching methods, such as teaching straight from the textbook, do not bring the subject matter to life in the same way hands-on, real-life experiences do.

Eighty-one percent of surveyed students said they are interested in science, and 73 percent expressed interest in biology. However, only 37 percent of teenagers said they like their science classes “a lot.” By contrast, 48 percent reported liking non-science classes “a lot.”

When it comes to engaging students, those surveyed said two-way, hands-on learning, like experiments and field trips, are most likely to engage them in biology, followed by tools that help them relate biology to real life. One-way communication, such as class discussions or teaching straight from the book, are least interesting, but among the most common.

Laura Ascione

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