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This tool provides the opportunity for teachers to ask students to articulate their knowledge and vocabulary about physics during game play and in the public exhibition of their solutions, as well as in follow up assessments.

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PlayMaker School


Newton’s Playground (NP) is a digital physics sandbox game that is designed to teach players a variety of physics concepts. Players are presented with a series of challenges in which they must move a ball across obstacles using drawn-in machines (levers, pullies, springs, etc). While students are interacting with the game, they implicitly learn specific science concepts such as Newtonian Physics, systems thinking, and energy conservation, in addition to specific processes of science like engineering and designing elegant solution strategies.

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Experience breakdown


Newton’s Playground is designed in such a way that learners implicitly learn physics concepts through the design of machines in trial-and-error situations. This tool provides the opportunity for teachers to ask students to articulate their knowledge and vocabulary about physics during game play and in the public exhibition of their solutions, as well as in follow up assessments.


Extracting Vocabulary and Concepts - Teachers ask students to articulate their knowledge and vocabulary about physics while playing Newton’s Playground. There were several opportunities for the students to exhibit various physics and engineering vocabulary terms & concepts.

Digital Exhibition - In digital exhibition, students produce artifacts (level engineering solutions) and explain them to their peers. We need to come up with a rubric that looks at how the exhibitions are assessed; both the students' solution is an artifact of knowledge and the students' ability to explain and demonstrate understanding, creativity, problem solving, and higher order thinking through their explanations.


A student at the PlayMaker School demonstrates his solution to the physics puzzle in a digital exhibition.

Problem solving: Group solving/two member team solving. What about group work can we observe that can demonstrate learning and 21 century skills. We need to begin documenting our observations and start making sense of it.

Student presentation and articulation of solution strategies can also be linked to the later use of physics terminology and engineering practice in written excerpts and use in later physcial engineering challenges.

Teacher facilitation - Added teacher facilitation for eliciting student explanations is key. Teaching strategies such as Socratic questioning and slowly introducing scientific terms after students have grasped the underlying concept need to be further explored in how they can be effectively implemented in teaching to NP.

Newtons Playground at PlayMaker


1 The instructor can extract all critical concepts from the game. They can ask, "what kinds of physics and engineering concepts can be introduced, reinforced, and expanded explicitly from the Newtons Playground experience?"

2 The teacher then articulates a breakdown of each sandbox level’s physics-based learning outcomes. Some of these will have to be created by the teacher's specifically designed challenge.

3 The teacher can then create both a physcis and engineering based rubric based on each level challenge with both concept and vocabulary introduction, expansion, and experimentation. Rubrics can be linked to performance assessments that proven within the game and other forms of eternal testing.


Common Core - English Language Arts

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.2 Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.5 With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed.
Science & Technical Subjects
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.3 Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.
MS-ETS-2. Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
MS-ETS-3. Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.

ISTE NETS - Digital Age Skills

1. Creativity and Innovation
Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
Apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, or processes
Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues
Identify trends and forecast possibilities
4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.
Identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation
Plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project
Collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions
Use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions
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