SBIR Phase I: Agency, a Web-based Alternative Reality Game for Environmental Education

Award Information
National Science Foundation
Solitcitation Year:
Solicitation Number:
Award Year:
Phase I
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Small Business Information
Seward Incorporated
2200 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis, MN, 55404-2395
Hubzone Owned:
Woman Owned:
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
Principal Investigator
 David Porcaro
 (612) 721-4444
Business Contact
 David Porcaro
Phone: (612) 721-4444
Research Institution
This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project seeks to motivate middle-school students to engage in science. Specifically, many students lack interest in environmental education, due largely to the increased time they spend indoors engaging in digital media. Through the development of Agency, an Alternate Reality Game (ARG), this project will leverage students? interest in video games and social technologies to motivate them to spend more time outdoors engaging in citizen science. In Agency, students use online technologies to transform themselves into super-agents who must go outdoors and take real action in their communities in order to play. Students gain points through peer-ranking of their activities. After developing one level of Agency through 3 iterations in schools, the researchers will conduct a feasibility study using pre/post tests of student learning outcomes, and student-questionnaires on motivations toward positive environmental behavior and time spent outside. Qualitative data from observations and teacher interviews will be included. Because of the infancy of the use of ARGs in education, this project will fill a research void by identifying the factors that lead to a sustainable and motivating educational ARG, and demonstrating the impact ARGs have on increasing science understanding and time spent outdoors. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is its potential appeal to teachers and students because of the highly motivating nature of ARGs. Additionally, through careful and researched instructional design, this project will develop a complete system that meets teachers? needs to produce technologically rich and stimulating activities, while helping students meet state standards for science. What sets Agency apart from other ARGs is its strong foundation in the 6-8th grade state science curriculum standards around ecosystems and watersheds, as well as scientific practices. Additionally, the program?s online tools allow students and teachers to effectively interact with science data and content in a repeatable and asynchronous manner, never found before in an educational ARG. Through the 9-month, standards-based curriculum, as well as a database connecting students to content, other classrooms, experts, and local and global media outlets, students are scaffolded in their scientific skills of observing, predicting, testing, acting, and reporting while gaining environmental literacy. This product could easily be linked to existing environmental education curriculums or science textbooks, adding value to products marketed to K-12 schools. As students play Agency they will enjoy the adventure of practicing science and the importance of responsible environmental behavior.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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