Finding the Riches in Game-Based Learning

By Caitlin Unterman, 8th Grade Science Teacher, Forest Middle School (VA)

Most in the education world believe that enrichment is the most important goal of a classroom. Teachers focus on creating opportunities that simultaneously enrich and engage students. However, many fail to recognize what is actually enrichment, and what is simply reinforcement.

Enrichment, by definition, is “the act of making someone wealthier.” I like to think this is wealth in the form of knowledge. Do a simple Google search and you find another definition of enrichment: “improving or enhancing the quality or value of something”.

Both definitions apply to our classrooms. And there is no better way to enhance the value of “something” than by adding what kids love best: games.

Another simple Google search can find you the EdTech definition of game-based learning: “Generally, game based learning is designed to balance subject matter with gameplay and the ability of the player to retain and apply said subject matter to the real world.”

Put enrichment and game-based learning together by definition, and you would get “Generally, game based learning is designed to balance subject matter with gameplay and the ability of the player to retain and apply said subject matter to the real world, while improving or enhancing the quality or value of education.” As an 8th grade Earth Science teacher, that sounds pretty sweet.

Importance of Enrichment in All Content Areas

Like the majority of teachers, my enrichment efforts are based on data. Strands of weakness and complex learning concepts take priority as I work to innovate and plan creative units to convey the concepts better. Try teaching radiometric dating and half-life curves to a bunch of 8th graders who were put into a High School Credit science class… That is quite a challenge.

Game-based learning has become the Aleve to my headache in that regard. Students are far more interested in their phones than any piece of paper I hand out. So, I moved towards digital learning.

Using the game-based learning platform Legends of Learning, I created a pre-test playlist on geologic time, added an assessment pack at the end, and downloaded my students’ performance data. After highlighting the weaker strands (subcategories within the topic), I made a new playlist. I taught the concepts per usual, emphasizing the weaknesses shown in the pre-test playlist data, and then launched the playlist again after my normal teaching lessons. (For an example of how to track student performance, check out the Hall of Knowledge here.)

An enrichment playlist covering geologic time.

Much to my surprise, weak strands were no longer categorized as “weak”, moreso, “improving”. Take a look at the Vanderbilt study conducted in partnership with Legends of Learning, and it speaks for itself. Weak strands can become enhanced strands through game-based learning enrichment.

How to Implement Games to Target Weak Strands

Some may think, “All of this is great, but where do I start?” Game-based enrichment isn’t something you just wake up and decide to implement one day.

Instead, consider doing some critical data analysis, at least once, before jumping right in.

The data analysis portion of the Legends of Learning platform allows you to break down each learning objective by student performance.

Teachers can download student data to track progress during enrichment activities.

From this, identify the weak strands. Your definition of “weak” may differ from mine, but usually I emphasize those showing 50% mastery or below. Think about those weak strands in terms of what I call the 3 Vs: Volume, Value, Vocabulary. Let’s break those down:


On average, how much time do you spend emphasizing a strand? One day? One week? Strands that are only the focus of one day of class may not be as crucial as larger units you spend weeks on. Take out the strands that are “one-dayers”.


Are the skills presented in this weak strand going to affect later learning objectives? Place an educational value on the learning objective. Is the concept crucial or supplementary?


Is the learning objective heavy on vocab? If so, take a look at the overview and curriculum for each game. Find the key vocabulary needed, pack the playlist, schedule the playlist to run over the weekend as “homework,” and collect data on Monday. You should see improvement.

View curriculum details for each game before using it for enrichment.

The key to game-based enrichment is finding the value in the innovative learning that is taking place. Don’t just plug in games that are fun and engaging. The games need to emphasize weaknesses within the content in order for enrichment to be successful.

What are your experiences with using GBL for enrichment?

Call for Elementary School Ambassadors

Legends of Learning is looking for elementary school ambassadors. Grades 3-5 teachers who are willing to review our science for Life, Earth and Space, and Physical sciences. Ambassadors who sign up by February 12 will get early access to games.

This is your opportunity to shape the Legends of Learning platform and games from the ground floor. When you sign up for our community, let your voice be heard and make a difference not only in your classroom, but for educators across America!

Impact how kids learn through games and join forces with like-minded heroes to review and strengthen the Legends of Learning platform and the individual games. Your input helps improve our collective offering.

Earn Rewards

We reward teachers who are active in our network. Participation in our community garners you access to challenges where you can earn more credits to continue playing. You can also earn some crazy rewards, too. Not that a hero needs more motivation, but those whose exploits are truly legendary will receive t-shirts, Pez heads, or other Legends of Learning swag.

So what are you waiting for, Legend? Sign up today, and help make game based learning even better in our community today!

P.S. Interested teachers who are looking for a little lighter interaction with Legendary peers can join our private Facebook group, The Hall of Legends.

10 Steps to Launch with Legends of Learning

Congratulations! You’ve created your Legends of Learning account, and you’re ready to expand your science teaching superpowers.

How To Get Started In 10 Steps

Here’s how to get started in just ten easy steps:

Step 1: Choose A Subject

Select Earth and Space, Life, or Physical Science.

Step 2: Choose A Learning Objective

Each subject has 26-35 different lessons, or Learning Objectives, each covering a specific science standard.

Step 3: Preview The Games

Each Learning Objective has 7-10 unique games. Click on each game to view teacher reviews, vocabulary words, and discussion questions. You can also play the games yourself, and leave your own ratings!

Step 4: Create A Playlist

Click the orange button above the games to be transported to the playlist building screen.

Step 5: Drag & Drop

Pick your games and drag them into the playlist.

Step 6: Add Assessments

Open up the “Assessments” tab, choose how many questions to include, and add them before, between, or after the games.

Step 7: Customize

Shuffle the order of games and assessments, toggle the playlist’s duration, and give your playlist a name.

Step 8: Launch!

Hit the big green button! You don’t even have to add your students ahead of time; just send them to and give them your teacher code, located at the top of the playlist. (Don’t panic; the “Students” tab will not appear in your account until you’ve launched a playlist and had students join.)

Step 9: Track Student Data

Watch as students progress through the playlist, and see their answers to quiz questions in real time. If you need to stop and review mid-playlist, click the pause button.

Step 10: Download Results

All student answer data gets saved within the playlist for future reference. Download it as a CSV with the click of a button!

Boom! Your science class is now certifiably legendary.

Reach Out To Legends of Learning For More Information

If you have any trouble with these steps, check out helpful hints on the Hall of Knowledge, or don’t hesitate to contact us at


Our Solar System Lesson Plan

When you’re teaching students about space, Earth’s immediate surroundings are a good place to start. Cover the sun, other planets, their moons, and asteroids with the Our Solar System Learning Objective.

It includes a lesson plan created by science teachers, which you can download in PDF form or view below.

Lesson Plan: Our Solar System

NGSS Standard
ESS1.B-1: The solar system consists of the sun and a collection of objects, including planets, their moons, and asteroids that are held in orbit around the sun by its gravitational pull on them.


Students will be able to:

  • Explain the role of gravity in the solar system.
  • Explain the relationship between mass and gravity.
  • Predict the patterns of movement of objects in our solar system.
  • Accurately produce a 2D model of objects with varying masses that illustrates the relationship between gravity and mass.

Time Required:
85 minutes

Materials Needed

  • Teacher computer with internet access
  • Projector/Smartboard
  • 1 computer/laptop/iPad/Chromebook per student with internet access or BYOD (students can Bring Your Own Device)
  • Our Solar System and Gravity handout (attached)
  • 15 magnets (varying sizes is acceptable and encouraged if magnets are not the same size)
  • A magnetic object, such as a paperclip or the leg of a student’s chair

Teacher Preparation

  • Create Playlist 1, a 30 minute playlist in Legends of Learning with the following games found in the Our Solar System learning objective (in order):
    • Around and Around (15 minute play time)
    • The Sun, Moon and Stars: Patterns of Apparent Motion (11 minutes)
  • Create Playlist 2, a 10 minute playlist in Legends of Learning with 5 assessment questions from the Our Solar System learning objective.
  • Make copies of Our Solar System and Gravity Worksheet (1 per student).
  • Gather materials for the Engage portion of the lesson.

Engage (15 minutes)

The teacher will show a magnet to the class.

  1. 1. The teacher will use the magnet and a paperclip to show that the paper clip
    is attracted to the magnet.

    • The teacher will ask, “Is the magnet attracted to the paperclip or is the paperclip attracted to the magnet?”
      • Allow students time to think before accepting any answers
      • Teacher should employ a random way of calling on students if no volunteers are available.
    • The teacher may guide/prompt students to the understanding that
      the paperclip is attracted to the magnet.
    • Using the magnets, and working in pairs or triads, the students
      should explore the classroom for other objects that are attracted to the
      magnet. Ask students to use different distances between the magnet
      and the object and to note the results.
    • Students should also use magnets of two different sizes to observe
      the results.
    • Once students are done (after 5 minutes), they should reflect
      (verbally or with written text) on the following prompts:

      • What types of objects were attracted to the magnet? Were the objects
        that were attracted to magnet larger or smaller than the magnet? Is there a
        relationship between size and the amount of attractive force?
  2. 2. The teacher will say “The activity you just did was modeling gravity.
    Gravity is a force of attraction. Why do you think I used a magnet to
    model gravity?” The teacher should employ a randomized process for
    calling on students. Only a couple (1 or 2) answers should be allowed at
    this point due to time. The teacher should say, “Gravity is a force of
    attraction. Today you will learn how gravity is used to keep objects in our
    solar system in constant, predictable patterns of motion, and the
    relationship between mass and gravity.”

Explore (20 minutes)

  1. Have your students sign in to Legends of Learning and enter your teacher code.
  2. Launch Playlist 1 to your students.
  3. As students complete Around and Around, students should fill out the Our Solar Sys>em and Gravity Handout; question #5 will be done during the Elaborate section of the 5E.
  4. Assist students as needed during game play, pause playlist if you need to address content or questions to entire class.
    • The teacher may need to sit with struggling students in a group of no more than 4 to facilitate learning.

Explain (25 minutes)

  1. 1. The teacher will review the answers from the Our Solar System and Gravity handout.
  2. 2. The teacher will relate student knowledge to the demonstration at the beginning of class.
  3. 3. It is important to remind students: The force of magnetism and gravity are not the same. However, in order to model the process on a small, observable scale, magnets were used to model gravity.
    • Why was a magnet used? A magnet was used to simulate an semi attractive force between objects.
    • What objects in our solar system were being represented by the magnet? Any object in the solar system that has mass can be represented by the magnet.
    • Why was the paperclip attracted to the magnet? The magnet is bigger than the paperclip.
    • How does the relationship of size affect gravity? The bigger an object is, and the more mass it has, the more gravity it will exert on other objects.
    • Why does the larger magnet attract the smaller magnet? The larger magnet has a larger “force”.
    • Students should be able to answer the following:
      • Why are the planets kept in constant, predictable motion? The Sun’s gravity.
      • Why do all the planets orbit the Sun? The Sun is the most massive object in our solar system. Larger objects with more mass will attract more objects.

Elaborate (10 – 15 minutes)

  • Have students watch the video on gravity.
  • The teacher can clear up any misconceptions about gravity and mass at this point in the lesson.
  • Students complete question #5 on the Our Solar System and Gravity handout.

Evaluate (10 minutes)

  1. 1. Launch Playlist 2 to your students. When they finish the assessment questions, any time left is free play.
  2. 2. Analyze student results to determine what concepts need to be a focus for reteaching.

Our Solar System & Gravity

Name: _________________________

While playing the second game in Legends of Learning called Around and Around, use what you learn to answer the questions below.

1. Label the planets in the correct order. Please note: Image is not to scale.

2. What are some of the components of our solar system that astronomers have studied? List some in the space provided.

  1. A.
  2. B.
  3. C.
  4. D.

3. What is the relationship between gravity and mass?

  1. A. The more mass an object has, the more gravity it will exert on another object.
  2. B. The more mass an object has, the less gravity it will exert on another object.
  3. C. The less gravity an object has, the more gravity it will exert on another object.
  4. D. The less gravity an object has, the less gravity it will exert on another object.

4. If two objects in space are close together, which of the following is true?

  1. A. Distance has no effect on gravity.
  2. B. The farther apart objects are will cause them to have greater gravity.
  3. C. The closer together objects are will cause them to have greater gravity.
  4. D. Gravity in space depends on how much light is being emitted from the objects.

This portion should be completed during the Elaborate portion of the 5E lesson.

5. Imagine that the solar system consisted ONLY of Jupiter, Mars, and Earth. How would Jupiter’s gravity affect the orbits of Mars and Earth? Draw and label your answer in the space below.

Legends of Learning On Instagram and Pinterest

Many of our ambassadors and friends in the education community have followed Legends of Learning on Facebook and Twitter over the past year, but complained about our lack of presence on Instagram and Pinterest. Well, those days are over!!!

You can now follow us on Instagram and Pinterest, too!

Our Instagram page will feature photo spotlights of our ambassadors, LoL staff, industry events, and case studies, as well as highlighting each of our 90 middle school science learning objectives and updates about our gaming platform.

We will also “regram” legendary posts from our followers, and may even give some teacher ambassadors the opportunity to temporarily take over the page!

On Pinterest, we have boards for Earth and Space Science, Physical Science, Life Science, as well as special topics like NGSS, last month’s total solar eclipse, and awesome inspiration from teachers.

Teachers are some of the best users on Pinterest, “pinning” everything from science labs to art projects to actual bulletin boards. The site provides an easy way to bookmark and spread bright ideas, improving classrooms everywhere.

We are excited to grow our engagement with the education community! The internet is an incredible asset, with the power to not only host resources like Legends of Learning games, but also to share valuable insights and ideas so teachers and students can reap the benefits. Join us in our mission to spread the best of education.

Follow Legends of Learning:


700+ Middle School Science Games Now Available

We are thrilled to launch our game-based learning platform with more than 700 curriculum-based games for middle school earth and space science, life sciences, and physical science curricula. The science games, created by over 300 games developers, are based on rigorous academic research conducted in partnership with Vanderbilt University.

In preparation for the platform launch, Legends of Learning involved more than 500 teacher ambassadors from across the country. Their participation will ultimately build a library of 700 games by the end of spring, with more games in different subjects and grades underway. The games and platform have benefitted from direct feedback by Legends of Learning’s teacher ambassador community, resulting in games ideally suited for the challenges of today’s learning environments.

Teachers communicated directly with and provided recommendations to game developers from such well-known game studios as Schell Games, Filament Games, North South Studios, Second Avenue Learning, and Intellijoy. Legends of Learning will continue to engage with educators about their needs and insights in an effort to keep games fresh and exciting for students.

“I have been teaching science for 14 years and never have I seen a company listen to teachers and incorporate feedback like Legends of Learning has,” said Scott Beiter, a veteran science teacher from Rensselaer, New York, and Legends of Learning teacher ambassador. “It is hard to find a platform that is easy-to-use and integrates into what I am already teaching, but Legends of Learning has created one for middle school science.”

Legends of Learning founder and CEO Vadim Polikov, a research scientist, believes that research is the foundation for successful game-based learning and long-term educational reform. The soon-to-be-released controlled study in partnership with Vanderbilt University, “Substantial Integration of Typical Educational Games into Extended Curricula,” measured the performance of more than 1,000 students in seven states and in schools with differing student bodies, socioeconomic factors, and geographical locations. The study demonstrated statistically significant success, showing that academic performance and engagement increase with curriculum aligned game-based learning.

Some unique aspects of the Legends of Learning game-based learning platform include:

  • Short games (5-15 minutes) that align to middle school science curriculum standards to ensure content engages and helps students succeed in their studies;
  • An intuitive platform similar to Netflix and Amazon that makes games easy and natural to use in classrooms; and
  • A dashboard that allows teachers to observe student comprehension in real time, create game playlists for classes and individual students, and assess content mastery.

“I firmly believe in using original academic research to test the efficacy of new education products while at the same time making sure the classroom implementation is incredibly easy for educators,” said our CEO Vadim Polikov. “Working with a wide range of teachers and game developers has allowed us to build a unique platform that will be easy for educators to integrate and use in their classrooms.”

Teachers interested in being part of the Legends of Learning Ambassador program should visit We are showcasing our platform and games at booth #2217 at the National Science Teachers Association’s National Conference in Los Angeles, March 30-April 2.

A version of this story was issued as a press release on PRWeb this morning. Interested parties can see the games on the Legends of Learning platform.

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