NOTE: Science Pirates (first released in 2008) is currently being updated for newer operating systems. Watch a video about the game, which was used with middle school students to help them learn about forming and testing science hypotheses.

Songs from Science Pirates are available on YouTube and NMSU's iTunes U.

About the Pirate Science project:

Science Pirates: The Curse of Brownbeard is a 3D educational computer game that communicates food safety knowledge in an environment of scientific exploration.

The USDA awarded NMSU a grant to develop interactive games that help mid-school youth learn about food safety procedures, such as hand washing, cooking food to the proper temperature, keeping raw meat and cooked food separate, and washing surfaces. NMSU's Media Productions unit has a strong history in developing food safety materials, including an effective games site for younger children in 3rd — 5th grades, "The Food Detectives Fight BAC!®".

Original game design called for online gaming simulations through which youth would design their own experiments, draw conclusions and make recommendations in all areas of food safety. However, early testing of prototypes revealed the lack of experience youth have in conducting experiment design, and the instructional challenge of preparing students to adequately perform this important science process.

Thus, the educational goal of Pirate Science shifted from one of understanding food safety issues through science processes, to one of understanding science processes to better change food safety behavior. That meant the educational focus became more centered on scientific understanding and processes, with the end result being a game that leads students through science processes as recommended through national science standards, while giving gamers a culminating activity of experiment design to lead them to better understanding of hand washing.

Specifically, learners will

  • observe hand washing behavior on the Isle of Misfortune
  • predict possible solutions
  • understand hypothesis formation, and how it differs from research questions
  • engage in testing one variable at a time in experiments
  • participate in a new approach to independent and dependent variable identification
  • draft a hypothesis
  • design an experiment
  • draw conclusions
  • publish findings
  • make recommendations for hand washing behavior

For any feedback, bug reports, recommendations and concerns please send them to the PI for the project, Barbara Chamberlin.