Amplify Science is a K–8 science curriculum that blends hands-on investigations, literacy-rich activities, and interactive digital tools to empower students to think, read, write, and argue like real scientists and engineers.
Over a span of eight months, I led the UX design for a project for Amplify Science with a specific focus: creating phenomena-based science simulations tailored for Grade 1 students in alignment with the Texas state science curriculum. This endeavor involved close collaboration with five key stakeholders and aimed to answer the intriguing question, "Why can't you un-bake a chocolate chip cookie?"
Our primary design objective encompassed two vital aspects: demonstrating how heat induces melting and emphasizing the variations in melting points among different substances.
To help the team better grasp the project's scope, I used data from prior usability tests and interviews to create a persona. This information was then used to understand the specific needs and challenges faced by our target audience, which includes 1st-grade students. Additionally, we incorporated insights from interviews with Texas school teachers into our understanding.
I supplied the team with a journey map to gain insights into the user's perspective and inform the simulation's design. This process helped us identify any key pain points and moments of interaction, which in turn guided our design decisions. We prioritized navigation and excessive steps to address teacher concerns and improve the overall experience. With insights from the journey map, we were well-prepared to create a simulation aligned with user expectations, providing a more user-centered learning experience.
In this session, students engage in hands-on experimentation using a prototype designed to explore concepts of heat and energy. Through interactive activities, students select items from a side panel and then choose from a range of heat sources to observe the effects on their materials placed in a muffin tin. This immersive experience allows students to actively investigate heat transfer mechanisms and deepen their understanding of scientific principles in a dynamic learning environment.
We conducted a series of 12 play-testing sessions with a diverse group of students, including 4 kindergarten students, 5 1st grade students, and 3 2nd grade students. It's important to note that for many of these students, this marked their first experience with a digital game or tool in a science classroom setting. The play-testing sessions were held virtually via Google Meet, allowing us to engage with the students remotely and gather valuable insights into their experiences.
1. "I learned that chocolate can become a liquid and then turn into a solid."
2. "I learned that hot plates if you turn it on the hottest level, the block will turn black."
3. "If you heat a block it doesn't melt with this kind of heat. It needs hot lava."
4. "I learned what a heat plate was."
Based on user testing insights, all participating students found the Heat Energy Sim enjoyable. Of the 11 students, 8 were able to articulate something they learned from the simulation, highlighting its educational value. Furthermore, the majority (8 out of 11) perceived the simulation as appropriate and challenging for their age group. However, 3 students felt that the content might be more suitable for younger learners due to their pre-existing knowledge of the subject. These insights provide valuable guidance for enhancing the Heat Energy Sim to cater to a broader range of user expectations and learning levels.
This project was amazing to work on. Science simulations are a powerful tool for teaching science, as they provide students with an interactive and hands-on way to explore scientific concepts and conduct experiments, regardless of their physical location. They can help to make science more engaging and accessible to students and can provide students with a better understanding of complex systems and phenomena.
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