If you have any more ideas, please share them in the comments section!
Available on: PC ($9.99 on Steam – has been as low as $1.99 on sale; available for free for educators via Steam for Schools)
Official website: http://universesandbox.com/
Suitable for: young learners and adults (pre-intermediate and up)
Necessary materials: working version of the game*, PC and projector (for large classes), student access to the game for group activities
- Create your own 'what would happen if...?' scenarios - once you have done the lesson outlined in my previous post, why not take the opportunity to put this software in the learners' hands? Let them play aruond with the mechanics of the game for a while and then ask them to devise their own simulations. They could then pose a question to the class, invite speculation and then run their own scenario on the screen. These scenarios could also be screencasted and submitted to the Universe Sandbox user videos page.
- A CLIL science and astronomy lesson - this game is not just about wreaking havoc. It is also an accurate simulation of how our solar system and the wider universe work. The simulaiton could be run for something simple like teaching planet names and other space objects like moon, black hole and asteroid. It could also be used for something more complex like demonstrating to students how the universe works and explaining concepts like orbit and gravitational pull.
- Destruction challenge! - Put the students in groups and give each of them access to the game. Challenge the students to do something destructive in the game such as destroy the Moon (without using the 'explode' option of course!), freeze the Earth or disrupt Saturn's rings. After a time limit, the groups then report back to the class about how they attempted the challenge and whether or not they were successful.
- A Universe Quiz/Treasure Hunt - prepare a list of factual questions about the universe (such as "How many moons orbit Jupiter?", "What is Andromeda?" or "What's the largest asteroid in the Solar System?") and instruct the students (in groups always works best!) to find the answers by exploring the game.
- Playing God - the whole point of a sandbox game is to explore, build, play around, and see what results you end up with so why not let our students do just that? If you teach young learners, I'm sure many times you have had them create posters or models about a dream home or an ideal island. Well, Universe Sandbox has a feature allowing the user to build a universe from scratch. Working in groups, let your students create their own solar system or mini galaxy (I say mini as there would be the risk of them spending hours creating something very elaborate). They decide how many stars and planets go in it, what their names are, what the planets and moons are like, and what life forms exist there. When completed, students present their creations to the class and maybe even create a screencast that could be added to the class blog as a project.