WSHS science teachers create games to help students deepen their understanding of biology unit

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Westerville South High science teacher Mark Schmidley admits the membrane transport unit in his biology class is not the most exciting topic.

“It’s hard to get some people fired up about ‘Oh man, glucose moving against the gradient. Transport proteins,’” he said.

To capture students' interest on a topic that deepens their understanding of cells, he and other WSHS science teachers decided to take their love of board games and create one for the lesson. With the Membrane Transport game, students have to play out the conditions molecules move across a cell on cards for points. 

“Over the last few years, we’ve been looking to merge what we’re teaching and make educational board games that may be more complex than an answer-a-question-and-move-a-space game,” Schmidley said.

He, along with Shelly Corl, Blake Holderman, Dennis Lackey, Adam Metzger, Jeff Owdom, Lauren Sefton and Aislynn Valentine, developed the game last year, creating the cards, writing out the rules and recording a video of themselves showing how to play. He unveiled the game to his biology students, who picked it up quickly and were able to retain concepts for the test.

With health and social distancing guidelines this year because of the pandemic, Schmidley created a virtual version of Membrane Transport after learning about an online card-playing site from Westerville Central High School science teacher Matt Long

The site allowed him to upload pictures on cards and design a layout that mimics the set up for the card game. When he rolled out the virtual game to his biology students this year, they could maintain their distance from each other while playing on their Chromebooks.

Freshman Teagan Fullen and the three other students she was playing with have been focused on their laptop screens. She won the previous game but was losing in the current match.

“It’s different,” she said. “We’re not taking notes for 42 minutes straight.”

She had already taken the test but she said playing the game was a good reminder of what she learned.

“The game is pretty fun,” sophomore Paula Melo said. “It’s like a playful way of figuring out stuff for biology.”

Schmidley said he is interested in developing other games in the future.

“It’s fun for me and in terms of students’ learning, it’s a good way for them to learn and practice while having fun at the same time,” he said.