What’s New at School: Amherst Middle School adding Tyto Online to science curriculum

Amherst

AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) – Young people are spending more and more time playing online video games these days, and now Amherst Middle School students are going to be able to use those games to learn valuable STEM lessons.

They’re going to be using Tyto Online this year.

The multiplayer immersive game looks like many other online games you’d find, with players creating avatars and going on quests.

The quests in Tyto Online, though, tie in with the 7th grade science curriculum. For example, when teachers at Amherst Middle School were learning to use Tyto Online last week ahead of rolling it out for their students, the quest they were completing had them breeding crops to solve a food shortage in a city.

That’s an important lesson in genetics.

“It’s part of the New York State standards and with that, it’s nice to be able to implement those standards in a fun and creative way,” said Stacey Susi, a 7th grade science teacher.

The 7th graders at Amherst Middle School will be trying out Tyto Online as part of a pilot program.

The company behind it, Immersed Games, was one of the winners of the 43North start up competition last year.

“We’re really focused on helping our school and district partners go live this year with Tyto Online,” said Lindsey Tropf, founder and CEO of Immersed Games, “So I’ve been doing a lot of professional developments with teachers locally, and we’re of course, always building more.”

Right now, Tyto online covers about a third of the middle school life science standards, including ecology, cells, genetics and more.

But more than that, it teaches students how to think like scientists.

“Most gamers will pursue higher levels of thinking as they go through their games. However, educational games, there have been few that have been developed to match those thinking skills, and this particular program does embed critical levels of thinking around the content as students are problem solving,” said Lynn Shanahan, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction, and technology for the Amherst Central School District.

The 7th grade science teachers at Amherst Middle School say they have high hopes as they roll out Tyto Online for their 200 students.

“It’s really an exciting opportunity for our students,” said teacher Nancy Claxton. “They can learn about science in a way that they’re really comfortable with.”

Of course, not everyone is a natural at this type of gaming, regardless of their age.

The developers say it’s meant to be simple enough for anyone to learn how to use and enjoy while they learn STEM lessons.

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