Squirting in the education

Have you ever thought about how many parts there are in a computer game?


You need artwork – every single scene has, well, a scene. You need a background.

Then you need characters, people, zombies, whatever.

You need a story line. It can be simple – the zombies are going to eat you so shoot them. Or, like our current game, Fish Lake, it can be a little more complicated.

This is actually based on real history, where a tribe did not have enough food so the whole tribe packed up everything they owned and moved hundreds of miles. Given that they didn’t have cars, planes or even horses, it was a pretty big deal.




On top of the game part, though, we make educational games. Sometimes, I feel like the education part is the cream inside a chocolate covered doughnut. You take something awesome and squirt more awesomeness inside of it. Below are just a few ways that we do it.

bottom doughnut





For many of the web pages, we’re adding a “Read it to me” button, where students can click and have the game read to them. The great thing about having so many teachers and students play early versions of our game is that we were able to see where students had trouble.

Many of the students read below grade level and they could benefit a lot from having someone read to them more often. And many kids just like being read to.

Other pages, I’ve added mp3 files that play when the page is loaded, so it is read to the student automatically.


I noticed that students like it when we have movies occasionally mixed in with the animation. Yesterday, I made a short video clip explaining probability with my two guinea pigs. The guinea pigs were not very cooperative.


We have a few animated problems, that show how math would be used by our tribe, whether it is determining that there are less edible fish in the lake or children arguing over who did the most work. There are also animated bits and pieces on the web pages, like a character who loses an argument about who packed up the most, getting made and running off the page.

Easter Eggs

Our game has lots of Easter eggs. It’s one of my favorite parts. A few of them are just silly – a fish squishes when you click on it – but almost all of them are educational. These can be very obvious, like when you click on a deer and a movie plays that talks about how boys learned to hunt. Some are really simple, like if you click on a word and it plays the sound in Dakota or Ojibwa. Others are very tricky, like that when you play the part of the game where you are collecting food for your tribe, the value of the food item is equal to its caloric content. Thank you to the USDA for the data on calorie content of a dressed wild rabbit.

( A dressed rabbit, by the way, is not like Peter Cottontail wearing a little coat and bow tie, but one that has been killed, skinned and prepared for sale as meat. See, even this blog is educational)