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Wake: Tales from the Aqualab is a 6th-9th grade science game that challenges students with engaging, authentic missions in a variety of ocean-based ecosystems. In Wake, students take on the role of a scientist studying ocean ecosystems, traveling to different ocean research sites to answer questions and solve problems. As they progress at their own pace, players are guided to gradually take on more complex science challenges.

At a Glance

  • Grade levels: 6-9 Life Sciences
  • Academic Practices: Experimentation, Modeling, Argumentation
  • Content [Ecosystems]: Kelp forest, Coral reef, Arctic, Bayou, Deep sea
  • Content [Key Concepts]: Food webs, environmental stressors, ecological restoration
  • Minimum Session Length: 40-minute minimum for a single session
  • Total Gameplay: 10 hours of total gameplay possible
  • Compatibility: Chromebook, PC or Mac with Internet access

Scientific Practices

Wake: Tales from the Aqualab targets the NGSS science practices of experimentation, modeling, and argumentation. The tools students will use to explore the ecosystems and complete challenges in the game, include:

Experimentation Tools:

  • Observation Tank to collect information about organism interactions.
  • Stress Tank to learn about organism tolerance to different levels of temperature, light, and pH.
  • Measurement Tank to measure rates and processes over time.

Modeling Tools:

  • Visual Modeling to represent ecosystem interactions.
  • Numerical Modeling to run simulations of future change and make predictions.
  • Intervention Modeling, to perform what-if experiments and predict the impact of changes to the ecosystem.

Argumentation Tools:

  • Claim, evidence, reasoning structure.
  • Support arguments with data collected from observation, experimentation, and modeling.

Academic Standards:

The following NGSS standards are most closely tied to Aqualab activities:

Use argument based on empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support an explanation for how characteristic animal behaviors and specialized plant structures affect the probability of successful reproduction of animals and plants respectively.

Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms.

Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.

Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.

Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.

Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals' probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment.

Use mathematical representations to support explanations of how natural selection may lead to increases and decreases of specific traits in populations over time.

Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.


Wake was developed as the result of a partnership between Field Day Learning Games, the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (UW-Madison), Harvard University, Carnegie Mellon University, and the Penn Center for Learning Analytics.


NSF Collaborative Research: Developing an Online Game to Teach Middle School Students Science Research Practices in the Life Sciences; DRL-1907384, DRL-1907398, and DRL-1907437