GSA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA - 2018

Paper No. 100-1
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


MARTINDALE, Rowan C., Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin, 2275 Speedway, Austin, TX 78712 and WEISS, Anna M., Jackson School of Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin, 2305 Speedway, Stop C1160, Austin, TX 78713

Inquiry-based or active learning strategies greatly improve student comprehension; using games in learning can help students retain material and become innovative problem solvers. In addition, collaborative exercises have been shown to improve reasoning and higher-order thinking skills in introductory geoscience courses. ‘Serious Games’ are designed to facilitate learning and have been lauded as excellent teaching tools, offering advantages over lectures in terms of availability, immediacy of feedback, cooperative learning, as well as social interaction, engagement, and enjoyment. We have developed a new serious game, “Taphonomy: Dead and Buried”, which is a physical board game that can be used in middle, high school, and college classrooms as a collaborative, active learning tool. Board games have recently regained mainstream popularity and are more accessible than video games for low-income areas.

The educational objective of “Taphonomy: Dead and Buried” is to teach the player about fossilization and taphonomy (i.e., processes that alter or remove fossils from the record). Game players learn how the organism’s physiology, the environmental setting, the physical and chemical changes during exposure, burial, and decomposition, as well as discovery biases influence whether or not an organism is collected. The objective is to preserve and recover the best collection (i.e., the largest and most diverse sampling of pristine fossils); play is both competitive and collaborative. Players “time travel” to the Jurassic and try to protect their specimens from taphonomic factors (e.g., erosion, degradation, physical damage) or destroy the specimens of other players (e.g., decomposing or disarticulating a specimen). During play, environmental events (e.g., storms, anoxia, remineralization) can enhance or diminish preservation. Players then “time travel” back to the present to find their specimens and learn that finding their fossils will also bias their collection (e.g. did they get a grant for field work? Is their fossil not exposed?). A beta version of this game has been developed and tested with undergraduate students at the University of Texas at Austin. We will also have copies of the game to play at GSA and can provide copies should one wish to include the game in their teaching curriculum.