Presented By CyGames
Selene: a lunar construction game



Image of Rochelle McCartinRochelle McCartin
“I loved how discussing the Gameplay Inquiry Cycle with my students helped me walk them through a scientific method for playing the Selene game. Using a Socratic style, I was able to lead the students to conclusions on how they could control their Selene game environment. We started out by reading each of the steps on the Cycle and discussing what that step meant when applied to the game. I then summarized that playing Selene and using the Gameplay Inquiry Cycle is applying a scientific method of thinking. Not being a science teacher, I found the Inquiry Cycle helpful for me to better understand the connection between Selene and STEM learning to better instruct the students. Selene is more than learning about the Moon or using technology or being part of a research project to see if students can learn from video games; using the Gameplay Inquiry Cycle, Selene is a fun way to learn and apply the scientific method. I think the Gameplay Inquiry Cycle helped students organize their thoughts and build confidence that they could manage the environment and succeed in the game.”

Rochelle McCartin is in her sixth year teaching the 4th through 8th grade Computer & Technology classes at East Cobb Christian School in Marietta, GA, after taking a break from the professional world to focus on being a mom. Prior to teaching and being a mom, Rochelle worked as a computer programmer, having earned her Bachelor of Science in Information and Computer Science from Georgia Tech.

  Image of Richard SoosRichard Soos
"It's great to hear these students talking about how the Moon was formed when we talk about the solar system. They are hypothesizing that perhaps the planets were formed the same way. We would not have reached these levels of discussion without the little bit of work they did on the Selene project."

Richard Soos teaches second grade special education and leads Project Challenge for talented and gifted students at Meyer Elementary in Hondo, TX. Students in the Project Challenge program meet four days a week. Soos has worked with gifted students since 1984, and his students have won awards and international recognition for their projects. Soos wrote the article "Multimedia Projects: An Effective Use of Technology as a Tool in Elementary Education", published in the August 2001 issue of Tech & Learning. Soos' students describe him as "the oldest man in the world."

  Students playing SeleneOhio County Schools Anchor Program
What's it like to play Selene?

The game received high marks in written evaluations from students in the Ohio County Schools Anchor program in Wheeling, WV. One wrote, "I can't believe that's my Moon. Wow! I did all of that!" Another wrote, "I think this is really cool, so when I get home I'm playing this. It's beast!"

Watch fifth and seventh grade Anchor students play Selene.
Watch NASA Education EdLine News Feature.
Watch West Virginia Pubic Broadcasting's Selene feature on YouTube.

  Image of Mary Ann, James, and TommyMary Ann O.
"My kids love astronomy and had a fairly sophisticated (for their ages–9 and 11) knowledge of the subject going into the game. But it is amazing how different actually BUILDING a moon is from just reading about how it formed. There is real power in creation–the lesson, I believe, will stay in their minds for a long time to come and has given them a really strong base on which to build future learning. Not only did they enjoy the game (they've gone back to it several times), but they have a much better grasp of the concepts that were presented than they did before the game and can explain them to other people. When you can explain a difficult concept to someone else and have them understand it as well, you demonstrate that you have truly internalized the material. Both of them have commented on how much more they enjoyed learning in this 'hands on' way, rather than just reading about it or listening to someone talk about it. As homeschoolers, we delight in trying out new and innovative approaches to education, and I truly believe that learning games like Selene are on the evolutionary cusp of a whole new way of learning for future generations of scientists!"

An image of James
  • "My 11-year-old son, Tommy, finished the game and LOVED it. He was so excited and pumped up when he was done, even though, right at the last second, when he was creating his moon in round 2, he accidentally blew it up with his last impact and had to start again! He was delighted with the game. He thought the videos were maybe a bit too long and didn't tell him anything that he didn't already know. He enjoyed them anyway, just thought maybe they were a bit too long. He felt like he learned a lot and has a better grasp of exactly how the Moon formed. It is easy to say that all the debris collided and formed the Moon, but seeing exactly how and in what mixture it had to collide, really made it more real."

  • "Tommy and I discussed last night how boring for him school had been because everything was 'read out of a book.' He is, and I feel many children are, very hands on and learns so much better when he has more of his senses involved in the learning experience. It is not just the learning, but the retention as well that improves so much when the learning is hands on. That was one of the reasons we chose to homeschool him. He hated school, was utterly bored, and very unhappy. I had asked him as a writing assignment some years ago to propose to me how to interest more children in space sciences, and believe it or not, his whole proposal revolved around videogames! So he was thrilled to see that his idea is catching on! The reason we got involved in your project is our passion for promoting science education and for getting children of the current generation to feel the same wonder about outer space exploration that my husband and I did as children."
An image of Tommy
  • "James enjoyed the game as well and actually was explaining to me how to do the craters, etc.... I hadn't understood how the graphs on the top were meant to indicate how many craters, etc., you placed in a certain time period, but James figured that out pretty quickly and explained it to me! It was obvious once he explained it to me, but until that point I hadn't understood what they were for. He wants to work on the Lunar Observation Project, so we will start on that as soon as we have a little bit of a warmer evening.... it's pretty cold tonight!"

  Image of John Bingamon John Bingamon
"I taught a summer school science program for at-risk kids entering 6th-8th grade. I thought Selene would be something they could learn from and enjoy. Most students found Selene the most engaging thing we did during summer school. Even though it was one of the two toughest things they did, they requested far less help from me and far fewer were off-task during class. Many were engaged, but more with the videogame aspects (particularly the 'asteroid shoot-em-up' part) than by consciously trying to learn from it. They wanted to do well, which is great.

"One thing I learned is that two hours is a minimum amount of time needed by students. Most players will require more than two hours to complete Selene.

"I plan to have my high school students play Selene this year as well. I will have a lot more control and flexibility with them: I may set it up as a required activity or perhaps as one option for a required out-of-class project. I will offer kudos by displaying their certificates in our hallway's 'Hall of Fame' display case or ask our student video announcers to interview participants. I might also offer Selene as part of an after-school science club, with strong encouragement/support from me, but not part of any class grade."

John Bingamon has taught high school science for 11 years. In the past he has taught biology, upper-level physics, integrated science, environmental science, and astronomy. He is currently teaching ninth grade conceptual physics. Bingamon graduated from the University of Michigan with an undergraduate degree in geology. Then he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya for three years, teaching high school math and science. He returned to the University of Michigan to earn a graduate degree in forest ecology and education. Bingamon spent most of the next 14 years working with environmental nonprofits before he returned to the high school classroom. His main academic interests are astronomy, environmental issues, and the origin and evolution of life.

  Image of Pam Casto Pam Casto
"I just wanted to let you know that as we researched interactive games related to the topics of space and planetary geology for an upcoming ERC workshop on NASA games, we decided that Selene was by far the best we encountered and chose it for our “gold standard” to compare all others by. The breadth and depth of educational content was outstanding. The interactive factor was also phenomenal. It was truly challenging but accomplishable for a wide age range and has held the interest of all those we have had play it. Our college intern (Amy Phillips) commented that she felt she would never forget even the details of how the moon formed - as compared to reading about it in a textbook where she would only remember the general idea. Thanks again for creating a great game!"

Pam Casto is the Education Specialist at the NASA IV&V Educator Resource Center in Fairmont State University, WV. Pam is a trained as an archaeology field tech with a BS in Medical Technology and an MA +45 in Secondary Science Education. She also volunteers at the Morgantown History Museum.

  "I was interested to read in your professional papers that the 'game is designed to help students generate the types of early knowledge that are likely to help them learn.' I saw direct evidence of this with the boys. Yes, they had some scattered bits of knowledge about the Moon’s formation in their heads already, but the game definitely helped organize and enhance that knowledge. They are now ready and eager to learn all about the physics of collisions and want to learn more about why the collisions created heat. They would not have been ready to learn those things before they played the game."

Mary Ann O. has worked for many years doing quality assurance and technical writing for large computer software projects and has always been fascinated by the interactions between humans and machines. She continually embarrasses her children by being able to beat them at the Pokemon trading card game and is a certified Pokemon Professor and League Leader. Both she and her two sons are huge videogame fans. She and her husband, Tom, have undertaken the homeschooling of their two boys, ages 9 and 11, both of whom are passionate about science and math. A graduate of the University of Colorado (anthropology, 1981), she continues to nurture a passion for both archaeology and paleontology, hosting a simulated "dig" in her backyard twice a year and leading innumerable fossil hunts into the backwaters of New Jersey.

  Image of Dr. Leticia MartínDr. Leticia Martín
"I have always loved astronomy and everything related to it. Probably being born in the Canary Islands with a beautiful starry sky and two astronomical observatories, has something to do with it. As a professional astronomer, I have dedicated many years to try to understand how the most massive stars are born. But astronomers, in contrast to other scientists, cannot touch what they are studying. The closest star, Proxima Centauri, is about four light-years away from us. Imagine: The light of this star takes four whole years to reach Earth. And only a privileged few have had the opportunity of setting foot on the Moon. This is the reason why playing the Selene videogame was so exciting. While playing it, I was right there, before the Moon was even created, throwing asteroids and trying to gather enough material to build my own Moon. The game was challenging, and I learned quite a lot, even though I was already familiar with concepts such as accretion or differentiation. Now I am translating Selene into Spanish. My job is making sure that Selene is as exciting in Spanish as it is in English."

Siempre, desde niña, me ha gustado la astronomía y todo lo relacionado con ella. Probablemente, el hecho de haber nacido en las Islas Canarias, con un hermoso cielo estrellado y dos observatorios astronómicos, tiene algo que ver con esto. Como astrónoma profesional, he dedicado muchos años a intentar comprender cómo nacen las estrellas más masivas. Pero los astrónomos, a diferencia de otros científicos, no podemos tocar lo que estamos estudiando. La estrella más cercana, Próxima Centauri, está a unos cuatro años-luz de nosotros. Imagina: la luz de esta estrella tarda cuatro años en alcanzar la Tierra. Y solamente unos pocos privilegiados han tenido la oportunidad de poner los pies en la Luna. Esta es la razón por la que jugar al videojuego Selene ha sido tan emocionante. Mientras lo jugaba, era como si estuviera ahí mismo, antes de que la Luna se formara, lanzando asteroides e intentando acumular el suficiente material para construir mi propia Luna. El juego constituyó un desafío y aprendí muchísimas cosas nuevas, y eso que ya estaba familiarizada con conceptos como acreción o diferenciación. Ahora estoy traduciendo Selene al español. Mi trabajo de ahora en adelante es asegurarme de que Selene sea tan apasionante en español como en inglés.

Dr. Leticia Martín is a professional astronomer. She completed her Ph.D. thesis in Groningen, The Netherlands. Afterward, she worked two years at the Observatory of Geneva (Switzerland) before moving back to the Canary Islands, where she was raised. Since returning, she’s been a researcher at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias. From her start as an astronomer, she has studied how the most massive stars in our galaxy and in other galaxies are born. Now she would like to combine her research with a new occupation as a technical and scientific translator.

Dr. Leticia Martín es una astrónoma profesional. Hizo su tesis doctoral en Groningen, Holanda. Poco después estuvo trabajando durante dos años en el Observatorio de Ginebra (Suiza), antes de trasladarse de nuevo a las Islas Canarias, lugar donde creció. Aquí ha trabajado como investigadora en el Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias. Desde sus comienzos como astrónoma ha estado intentando comprender cómo se formaron las estrellas más masivas de nuestra Galaxia y de otras galaxias. Ahora le gustaría compaginar su labor como investigadora con una nueva ocupación como traductora técnica y científica.

  Headshot of Dr. Hoyet HemphillDr. Hoyet Hemphill
"The Selene project incorporates an innovative use of elaborated metaphors to help make an abstract concept, like accretion of the Moon, more accessible and grounded for the learner by relating new concepts and processes to familiar objects and processes. The simulation is fun and engaging while teaching some very important and abstract concepts about the formation of the planets and the moons. Learners get to try to build their own moon and thus gain an understanding of how our Moon was formed. I think this project could point the way for future online educational simulations."

Dr. Hoyet H. Hemphill has been chair of Instructional Design and Technology at Western Illinois University since 2002. He has been instructional research manager of a corporate R&D group and was director of an elementary education science outreach program in a four-state region. He has numerous publications and presentations and most recently published in the British Journal of Educational Technology.

  Headshot of Jennifer Hubbell ThomasJennifer Hubbell Thomas
"Selene clearly meets three of our Illinois state science standards. Additionally, Selene builds on concepts and helps students to learn them in a more meaningful and engaging manner. Several of my students expressed that the Selene game environment was a better avenue for learning than just reading and doing worksheets. I found that even students who weren’t particularly 'A' students were able to provide serious details, explain concepts, and express them using appropriate science vocabulary after playing Selene. This type of learning can be particularly challenging for junior high students. Even weeks after playing Selene, my students were still able to discuss concepts with great detail. Selene is a great way to 'teach,' especially when students have differing levels of reading ability. I say the more ways you have to teach something, the better!"

Motivating My Students
“I’ve now completed my fifth year of Selene implementation (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2013). The CyGaMEs team tells me my students are very successful at completing Selene, at placing well on the Leaderboard, and at returning to play Selene again and again (top number of replays by any one student is 21). I think the reasons some of my students are successful are many and varied. First of all, Selene is part of the curriculum and ties in with our textbooks. We also devote at least three straight days of class time and study hall time to engage in Selene. I am also very enthusiastic about the whole concept, and I have made my students aware of the importance of science education research. They like the idea that they are part of a larger goal—to see if students do well with material presented in videogame format. Students and teachers really have little or no control over what is mandated to be taught in the classroom, but the Selene project empowers students to some degree. They see they are having a small impact on science education, which may ultimately affect how science is taught in the future. They also like the challenge and feedback that the leaderboard results provide. All of these things serve as powerful motivators for them.”

Jennifer Hubbell Thomas is an eighth grade astronomy/Earth science teacher at Williamsville Junior High in Williamsville, IL. In addition to her teaching duties, she is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Illinois at Springfield and is one of the research associates at the Barber Observatory, which monitors class B emission stars and looks for line profile variations in the Balmer series and some select metallic lines. Her research team presented a poster at the American Astronomical Society meeting in St. Louis in June 2008. Hubbell Thomas has been featured as one of the "Moon Men" in the Illinois Times for her volunteer work at Star Parties, a popular astronomy gathering held at the University of Illinois-Springfield’s rooftop observatory.

  Headshot of Laura WilbanksLaura Wilbanks
"The Selene project has been an amazing way for my students to experience learning in the 21st century classroom. It offers everything a student could hope for: innovation, computer-based learning, excitement, and instant feedback! The simulation is appealing to the generation of children who are intrigued with videogaming and at the same time, meets Texas state science standards. With the United States fighting to stay at the cutting edge of the STEM fields, Selene offers students an authentic science experience that encourages them to stick with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics long after high school graduation."

Laura Wilbanks has a passion for nature. During a family trip at age 12 to the Grand Canyon, she decided to make science her career. Nita Fuller, assistant director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, became her mentor while Laura worked for the Youth Conservation Corps at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Laura became a biologist for the Service before becoming an educator. For the past 20 years she has encouraged children to make a difference through the application of science, math, and technology in her science classroom in West Texas. Through project-based learning Laura's students solve community problems while mastering science process skills. Her students have received numerous honors through regional, state, and online science competitions, earning middle school students $350,000 for their accomplishments. A recipient of the President's Volunteer Service Award, she devotes time after school to students through her science enrichment club, Science Rocks U, which has received the Texas Environmental Excellence Award. A member of the National Science Teachers Association, she was also named the 2007 Wal-Mart Area Teacher of the Year. She serves as an advisory member to the Christopher Columbus Awards Foundation and the U.S. Army's eCYBERMISSION competition.

  Headshot of Caroline GoodeCaroline Goode
"Observing my grandson, an eighth grade student, work through the pregame Selene and then the actual game, I was surprised by how quickly he learned the necessary 'ingredients' to recreate the formation of our Moon. He was totally engaged, talking his way through the game, and found the whole experience challenging and fun. I have worked for 25 years as a middle school science teacher and was impressed by the fast learning curve of Selene."

Caroline Goode has taught middle school science for more than 25 years, conducts professional development programs for teachers in grades 4-8, presents student programs that focus on aerospace themes using NASA resources, and has published a teaching handbook for grade five science with TeachingPoint Publishing. Caroline is currently the Massachusetts state coordinator for the National Science Teachers Association Building a Presence for Science program. She is also a contract consultant for the Christa Corrigan McAuliffe Center for Education and Teaching Excellence at Framingham State College. Caroline was named the 2006 McAuliffe "Christa's Teacher of the Year" and received the 2006 Turner N. Wiley Teacher Award from the national Challenger Center for Space Education.

  Image of Julie OgdenJulie Ogden

"The CyGaMEs Selene learning activity has been perfect for my students. I am a sixth grade science teacher at Woodcliff Lake Middle School in Woodcliff Lake, NJ. I used Selene in my science classes this spring [2012].

"The excitement level of the children as they learned was unbelievable. They raced into the room to log on to Selene, and while they were not allowed to talk about the actual game, there were excited outbursts every time they achieved a high score. Many students continued play at home to see if they could obtain that completion card. The students loved the challenge and were super motivated to master this learning. This was a great experience!

"Based upon my experience using Selene with my students, I agree to continue to serve in this capacity as long as I am teaching and the project is funded.

"On behalf of my students, I am very excited for this opportunity."

Motivating My Students

Two weeks before we started Selene, I really talked it up with the kids, telling them it was a unique opportunity: They would be participating in groundbreaking research—a game designed by the top scientists in the country.

"When we began the game, the students were simultaneously involved with the NASA GRAIL MoonKAM, which allowed them to pick areas of the Moon for NASA to photograph and post. I also immersed them in Moon lore from legends to pop songs to increase the excitement.

"We scheduled time in the computer lab for play, and I did not assign homework that week so students had time to complete at home. While I enforced that the students could not discuss the game, I did encourage competition over points earned and game completion time. We dedicated a bulletin board in our classroom to list the students who completed first. There was a second board to list our high scorers. Students who scored over 4,000 got their completion card laminated and acknowledged in class. Our one high scorer who made the leaderboard had his picture put in the local newspaper (with project Selene information included for other teachers in the area).

"For the rest of the school year whenever students had free time, they were allowed to use the class computers to play Selene."

Julie Ogden has taught science at Woodcliff Lake Middle School in Woodcliff Lake for more than 10 years. She has had about 10 careers, among them caterer, construction company manager, and instrument flight rated pilot. Teaching science suits her because it really sparks her curiosity. She had seen how science was being taught and thought she could make it "come alive" for students. She is most proud of her family, including her four rescue dogs and her students. Pride in her students is about having a positive impact on them and seeing them learn. She was a semifinalist in 2011 for the state of New Jersey in the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching.

  Image of Antonio Souto GonnellaAntonio Souto Gonnella

"As an obsessed amateur Moon admirer, I had read many times about the formation of our beautiful satellite. But just as quickly as I read, I forgot many important details. With your game I felt responsible for the creation of the Moon. This interaction put me in another level of consciousness that I could never achieve reading. That is why I believe that I will never forget the process of formation of the Moon now that I have learned it 'from the inside.'

"I just want to thank you again, give you my congratulations, and express to you that I’m completely confident that this will be a very good tool to teach planet Earth youngsters about our Moon. It will awake their scientific curiosity. This could lead them to more discoveries in different areas of knowledge, making the future more interesting to us all. I also believe that if we use this game as an education tool, in the future there will be more people looking forward to see the Moon in a clear night to try to find its written past and the true history (which happens to be a part of our history too) in its surface than there will be people writing and reading novels about shallow love between vampires that take place in a cloudy night with a 'poetic' Moon."

Antonio Souto is a 26-year-old mechanical engineer working for the robotics department in an engineer enterprise in Porto, Portugal. Having always shown great passion for amateur astronomy and for the difficult task of taking photos of the Moon through a set of binoculars without the proper tripods and/or montage, he has managed his way to collect a half dozen very good pictures. This boosted his curiosity and inspired him to look for all kinds of information, which led him ultimately to find this Selene game online. His passion for astronomy is such that he hasn’t still completely said goodbye to the idea of reentering college to study physics. The hope would be someday to teach others what he has discovered by himself.

  Image of Katie LeachKatie Leach

"In my classroom I typically conduct two activities simultaneously. I teach gifted students on one side of the room. On the other side I supervise regular education students working on online courses. When I introduced Selene to my gifted students, my online students were listening and asked if they could also join the group to participate in Selene.

"My Selene players are male and female students are in fifth grade and senior high school. Both my gifted students and online students successfully completed Selene and thoroughly enjoyed it. All students completed Selene in just one day. Some completed during our initial 1 hour and 45 minute class period. The others completed later that evening at home. After they finished Selene, most played Selene again.

"I often use technology in my classroom projects for gifted students. I see tremendous value in programs like Selene that can actively engage all of my students in learning."

Katie Leach has been the gifted support teacher for Weatherly Area School District for 11 years. Her students have won first place in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania in both the eCybermission competition sponsored by the U.S. Army and in Part 1, Division 1, in the TEAMS Engineering Competition sponsored by the Technology Student Association.