When last we left our trusty Edmunds Explorers, they had just defeated a horde of geometry-loving aliens who’d invaded the school, demanding triangles, circles and trapezoids. After that adventure, the two classes of 6th graders took to the streets of Burlington. Lake Street, to be precise, which led them down to the Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center and the scene of their next big ARIS adventure.
ARIS stands for Augmented Reality Interactive Storytelling, and it’s an open-source platform published by the University of Wisconsin to allow K-12 students to design and create their own place-based games for the iOS mobile platform. Museums across the country are starting to incorporate augmented reality to make visitors’ experiences more in-depth and authentic; where once students might’ve simply read a plaque about the lives of fur traders at the Minnesota Historical Society, now they have a chance to play the role of one, working through some of the challenges and hardships the life presented in order to advance through the tour.
And where Minnesota has fur traders, the Echo Center has frogs.
Vinnie is a native Vermont bullfrog whose life and habits were drawn directly from Echo Center exhibits by Burlington School District technology information specialists and TIIE to form the short ARIS game “Frogworld”.
Students worked their way through the Frogworld game by gleaning information from plaques in Echo’s Frogworld exhibit. They also documented resources from the Echo Center exhibits for later use in their own games. Echo Center staff also got into the act. Executive director Phelan Fretz used ARIS’ Notebook feature to contribute his own frog to the Frogworld game, then spent lunch taking suggestions from students as to what kinds of behind-the-scenes information Echo could provide to support students’ own ARIS games.
ARIS is one of a number of augmented reality platforms the Echo Center is piloting with local schools.
Edmunds is incorporating ARIS into a yearlong place-based unit examining the Lake Champlain basin through environmental, cultural, historic and opportunity lenses. The Echo Center hopes to make the local 6th graders’ ARIS games available to visitors as part of the museum tour when they’re completed.
(Special thanks to the UVM College of Education and Social Services for their support of this project. )