Ariana White
UX Designer

Science Simulations

Crafting phenomena-based science curriculum for Grades K-8.

This page is for work that is either still in development or not yet public

This page is for work that is either still in development or not yet public

What is Amplify Science?

Amplify Science is a K–8 science curriculum that blends hands-on investigations, literacy-rich activities, and interactive digital tools to empower students to think, read, write, and argue like real scientists and engineers.

Amplify Science for grades 6–8 has recently been rated all-green by EdReports.

I designed and crafted simulations with MITR media as games in play with digital tools to encourage desired learning in students.

What are science simulations?

Science simulations are computer programs or virtual environments that mimic real-world phenomena or processes, allowing students to conduct virtual experiments, explore complex systems, and visualize scientific concepts. They are used to teach a variety of science subjects, including physics, chemistry, biology, and earth science.

Designing for Texas Standards

Pain Points

  • Teachers do not have resources that efficiently align to the TEKS.

  • Teachers have to supplement their existing curriculum with interesting art, photos, videos, readings, hands-on activities and labs and Sims that meet student needs.

  • Teachers do not have lessons that inspire them to teach Science.

  • Teachers need better supports to help them meet the very real needs in
    their classrooms.

What are TEKS?
Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or TEKS are the state standards for Texas public schools from kindergarten to year 12. They detail the curriculum requirements for every course.

Science Simulations | UX

“I want a curriculum with TEKS alignment of STEMScopes, sims like Gizmos, and differentiated, integrated literacy on a platform that doesn’t suck. Oh, and new STAAR-aligned assessments.”

- Texas school teacher

Science Simulations | UX

STEMscopes Texas (Grades K-12)

STEMscopes Texas uses the 5E plus intervention and acceleration learning model to engage your students in the wonder of STEM. 

Science Simulations | UX

Gizmos

Gizmos are interactive math and science virtual labs and simulations for grades 3-12. Over 400 Gizmos aligned to the latest standards help educators bring powerful new STEM learning experiences to the classroom.

Science Simulations | UX

State of Texas Assessments
of Academic Readiness

STAAR, is a series of standardized tests used in Texas public primary and secondary schools to assess a student's achievements and knowledge learned in the grade level

Designing for Texas Standards

Solutions

  • Teachers do not have resources that efficiently align to the TEKS.

  • Teachers have to supplement their existing curriculum with interesting art, photos, videos, readings, hands-on activities and labs and Sims that meet student needs.

  • Teachers do not have lessons that inspire them to teach Science.

  • Teachers need better supports to help them meet the very real needs in
    their classrooms.

Designing for Texas Standards

• Sims will have very little text

• Sims will never directly explain the standard. Students will be asked to make a claim and will collect evidence in the sim to either adjust their claim or have evidence to support their claim

• There will be an assessable moment as a result of the sim. Ideally, the assessment would be embedded in the sim, but if that's too difficult to collect data and persist it for reporting, then we would always have a way in digital/print to assess students' knowledge/understanding that is directly tied to their experience in the sim.

• Sims will be playable in more than one grade level or module


Modes in simulations

Explore phase:

In this phase, students should be able to use Sims independently, even without getting full instructional support from teachers. Students should be able to play around with components, see the effects of manipulating variables, and how the Sim responds to their choices. The purpose should be observing and sharing ideas about patterns, and building background knowledge through exposure.

Explain phase:

In this phase, students should be using the Sim to demonstrate and represent patterns, model, test ideas to answer questions that stem from activities and exploration within the module. Sims used in this phase should include data tables, charts, graphs, and other informational pieces that students can refer to when using them. Please note: strategic Sims may not be as well tied to an Explain activity that is directly linked to answering the module's essential question, since they will be built to address knowledge and skills outlined by the TEKS.

Elaborate phase:

In this phase, students should be applying their knowledge to familiar and novel contexts. To this end, Sims should allow students to pursue new lines of questioning, and push them towards not only gathering evidence to support claims about patterns they encountered in the Explain phase.

Science Simulations | UX

Heat Energy Simulation

Grade: 1

Learning Objective:
Students know sources of heat in everyday life.
Students know that changes can sometimes be reversed and other times can't. 

TEKS
Investigate and describe applications of heat in everyday life such as cooking food or using a hair dryer, and hot plate.

Essential Question:
Why can't you un-bake a chocolate chip cookie?

Wireframes

Simulations wireframes showing all three modes

Simulations wireframes showing all three modes

Modes

Mode 1: Students select a hair dryer from the heat source options

Mode 1: Students select a hair dryer from the heat source options

Mode 1: Students observe the effects of the hair dryer up close

Mode 1: Students observe the effects of the hair dryer up close

Mode 2: Students observe the effects of a hot plate

Mode 2: Students observe the effects of a hot plate

Mode 3: Students observe the effects of sunlight

Mode 3: Students observe the effects of sunlight

Science Simulations | UX

User Testing

The purpose of this research was to:

  • Test assumptions about design for K–2 and 3–5 banded Sims

  • Gauge the grade-level appropriateness of our K–2 Sim designs and pedagogical approach to UI/UX

  • Gather feedback on pain points and general user experience

  • Determine next steps for improving Sim designs, UX

  • Develop richer student user personas to support with Sim iteration

11
Interviews
11
Usability Tests
3
Iterations

Student Reactions

  • All students liked the Heat Energy Sim and thought it was fun.

  • 8 out of 11 students could articulate at least one thing they learned from playing the sim:

    • "I learned that chocolate can become a liquid then turn into a solid."

    • "I learned that hot plates, if you turn it on the hottest level, the block will turn black."

    • "If you heat a block it doesn't melt with this kind of heat. It needs hot lava."

    • "I learned what a heat plate was."

  • 8 out of 11 students thought the Heat Energy Sim was for kids their age, meaning it felt age appropriate and challenging enough. The other 3 students thought it was for younger students since they felt like they already knew the content.

Conclusion

This project was amazing to work on. I loved working closely with teachers, and vendors to create beautiful solutions for students and users. Science simulations are a powerful tool for teaching science, as they provide students with an interactive and hands-on way to explore scientific concepts and conduct experiments, regardless of their physical location. They can help to make science more engaging and accessible to students, and can provide students with a better understanding of complex systems and phenomena.

Thank you for reading!