Montgomery College Students Partner with NOAA to Create Online Video Game

“WaterLife: Where Rivers Meet the Sea” Designed for Children in 4th–7th Grades 

Students in Montgomery College’s Computer Gaming and Simulation Program partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to create a new educational online game, “WaterLife: Where Rivers Meet the Sea.” NOAA launched the game this week at the annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association in New Orleans.  Designed for students in grades four through seven, the animated game follows the adventures of a young girl inside the ecosystem of an estuary on the west coast of the United States.

The game aims to teach students about the importance of estuaries to humans and marine life, the factors that contribute to the health of estuaries and the threats that endanger estuaries. Approximately 14 Montgomery College students, guided by Professor Deborah Solomon, worked on the game.

They collaborated with NOAA educators on the game’s educational objectives, and then created the animations and games to bring their ideas to life. “This has been a learning experience for me,” said Montgomery College student Chris Krawiec. “It was satisfying to work on an entertainment game that educates about such serious issues as the environment and how to clean it up.” Our students had the opportunity of a lifetime to design a game that will make a difference in the education of middle school students,” said Deborah Solomon, computer gaming and simulation professor at Montgomery College.  “This year-long project provided my students with some true real-life work experience that will benefit not only them but future generations.”

In the game, players control the young heroine, Valerie, as she takes part in a series of educational challenges, which include cleaning up trash, replanting the habitat and battling pollution. Players must win their challenges to advance to the next levels, but they are assisted on their journey by an otter named Oscar and a geoduck clam known as the Claminator. To increase learning opportunities, the game includes Web links and a supplemental online field guide to assist players in their challenges.

During the game’s early development, it underwent testing with middle school students living in Montgomery County, Maryland. In addition, Montgomery College professors and staff provided translations of the script into multiple languages to allow players to view subtitles during the animated scenes.

The Montgomery College Computer Gaming and Simulation Program is designed to meet the computer gaming industry’s demand for well-trained employees. Montgomery College offers both associate’s degrees and certificates through the program. Students learn the technological skills that can lead to a career in the industry or to transfer to a four-year college or university, such as the University of Baltimore’s Simulation and Digital Entertainment baccalaureate degree program.

To play “WaterLife: Where the Rivers Meet the Sea,” go to: http://games.noaa.gov.  For more information about Montgomery College’s Computer Gaming and Simulation Program, visit www.studygaming.com.

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