G4C 2016 awards finalist: Nova

Nova is the creator of Nova’s Evolution Lab, a Games for Change 2016 awards finalist for Best Learning Game.

Company name: Nova Labs

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/labs/

Twitter: @theNOVALabs

Short bio: Nova Labs is a science game and interactive platform that is targeted toward teens and lifelong learners. Nova Labs players take part in real-world investigations by visualizing, analyzing, and playing with the same data that scientists use. Along the way, their learning is supported by the kind of quality science videos that Nova on PBS has been making for over 40 years. Each Lab focuses on a different area of active research, but all of them guide participants through games and interactives and illustrate key concepts with engaging and informative videos.

Nova Labs is produced by WGBH in Boston. WGBH is America’s preeminent public broadcasting producer, the source of one-third of PBS’s prime-time lineup like Nova and Frontline, along with some of public television’s best-known documentary and lifestyle shows, many public radio favorites, and a roster of children’s programs. Nova Labs was launched in April 2012 and currently contains a team of eight who work to produce the games and interactives in collaboration with partner organizations. With the support of the Biogen Foundation, the groundwork laid by Harvard University’s NSF-funded Life on Earth project, and the expertise of our scientist advisors and science teachers in the Nova Education Advisory Board, the Evolution Lab was the sixth game/interactive on the Nova Labs platform.

Games at the festival: The Nova Evolution Lab is a puzzle game and interactive tree of life that challenges players to build phylogenetic trees, complete missions based off of the evidence for evolution, and explore the connections between over 70,000 species. The Evolution Lab is available here.

Platforms: The Evolution Lab is a web game available on the Nova Labs website. It is optimized for use on tablet devices.

Grades: The Evolution Lab is designed for middle and high school aged students.

Education value: The Evolution Lab is designed to provide an overview of the evidence for evolution while addressing misconceptions and highlighting case studies about evolution. During the development of the game, we worked with high school science teachers to identify topics in evolution that were difficult to teach, and we tested early builds of the game with high school students. In addition, we have created lesson plans, discussion questions, and worksheets to accompany the Evolution Lab and reinforce the concepts explored in the game.

The Evolution Lab meets the need in science education for engaging digital resources that outline the evidence for evolution and confront common misconceptions that make learners susceptible to confusion and doubt. Though evolution is the central unifying principle of biology, it is an area of science that is rife with conflict. A 2014 Gallup poll revealed that 42 percent of Americans believe humans were created 10,000 years ago. This conflict is purely societal and not scientific, and unfortunately there are many organizations that have a vested interest in spreading confusion and doubt about evolution.

Since the launch of the Evolution Lab in April 2015, over 640,000 people have played the game, and we have partnered with prominent organizations to promote the Evolution Lab. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE), the Leakey Foundation, Khan Academy, and Google Play for Education are among Nova’s partners who have supported our outreach to teens, science educators, and gamers.

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