Wisconsin Educators Help Design ‘Shipwrecks!’ Game

July 13, 2021 Jessie Nixon Leave a Comment

This winter, more than a dozen Wisconsin elementary school educators will see their hard work come to fruition in the form of an educational, online video game that explores Great Lakes shipwrecks.

During the 2020-21 academic year, 14 Wisconsin third through fifth grade teachers took part in the Shipwrecks! Game Design Fellowship with PBS Wisconsin Education and Field Day Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Throughout the winter, these educators met with teachers, game designers, researchers and maritime archaeologists to co-design a video game that investigates shipwrecks in the Great Lakes using the practices of maritime archaeologists. 

One educator reflected on their experience participating in the fellowship: “During a time when we are extraordinarily isolated, this fellowship gave me the unique opportunity to connect, however briefly, with other educators. As a classroom teacher, we weren’t able to go on cool field trips and since we were limited in so many ways within the classroom, being able to be part of the foundation of something supremely cool has been supremely cool!”   

All 14 educators also took part in the initial game concept fellowship at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc in November 2019.

In the online Shipwrecks! game, scheduled for release in the winter of 2021, players will read informational texts, engage in historical inquiry, and learn about historical moments and themes associated with the Great Lakes. The final version of the game will be used by elementary school students and teachers across Wisconsin, as well as nationally through PBS LearningMedia

In addition to co-designing the game, teachers play-tested the game with their students. Students then provided feedback and suggested areas of improvement as the design team iterated designs, character artwork and game play. Field Day art designers also visited classrooms virtually to gain student feedback on character art. 

The online video game is one component of PBS Wisconsin’s three-part Shipwrecks! project, debuting in December. Along with the fully-interactive education game, Shipwrecks! includes an hour-long documentary on Great Lakes shipwrecks and a state-of-the-art virtual reality experience. All three components will help people of all ages immerse themselves in the history of more than 700 shipwrecks along the shores of Wisconsin, alongside the state’s maritime communities and those searching for shipwrecks today.

The Shipwrecks game is a partnership between Field Day Lab, PBS Wisconsin Education, Wisconsin Sea Grant, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin Center for Education Research, and Wisconsin Historical Society’s Maritime Preservation and Archaeology Program.

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