Science Snoops Life Science Investigations

 for students in grades 7 and 10

Under Development by Kinder Magic Software 2006

A storyboard of student interaction with the software

In Science Snoops, students in grades 7 or 10 engage in inquiries of life science phenomena. This software provides students with an opportunity to practice science investigation skills and competencies within a simulated workplace environment. They play the role of new researchers as they are guided through learning tasks, and they work to solve each life science mystery case as part of a team of real and virtual scientists. Each virtual co-worker is portrayed by an actor who interacts with the student to give information, assign work, and give feedback on students’ performance. Students complete 20-30 tasks of varying kinds and difficulty levels to solve a case.

Science Snoops Institute

Inside the building

At the start, students are greeted by the Administrative Assistant in the Lobby.

He asks students to complete an employment application:

After an orientation, students are shown to their office:

On the students’ computer is an email from the Lab Director asking students to select a case:

Co-workers stop by the New Snoops' office...

Jacy Jackson, the Field Specialist:

Tom Green, the other Research Associate:

Each case follows a model of the inquiry process.

The following examples are taken from The Case of the Missing Monarchs:

Victor, a young researcher and exchange student from Mexico, comes to the Institute with a problem. He is concerned that the number of Monarch butterflies has plummeted in the vicinity of Miller’s Pond this year, and he asks the Science Snoops to help him investigate this.  Students take notes during the client interview, and it is also “videotaped” so that they may review it later.
Next, a follow up email asks students to define the research questions that need to be answered in order to solve the case. MORE
Feedback on student work usually comes in the form of an email from a co-worker and varies depending on how well the student performed. It may confirm students’ answers or lead them to reconsider their responses.

 Students are always able to look up the corrected case files on the Institute’s “server” for later reference.

Next, students are guided in formulating hypotheses and predictions that lead to a data collection plan. They are instructed to accept or reject a particular hypothesis once data have been evaluated. MORE

Here, Dr. Addams explains how to check microscopic slides for parasitic organisms.

Several times in the course of a case, students are called to the laboratory to perform experiments and collect data. All these data are then analyzed. For instance, they examine data from 200 monarchs and find that only 6% showed moderate infection. By comparing this data to data from previous years in the same area they conclude that the infection rate has not changed over at least the last 11 years. Therefore infection by these parasites is probably not the major cause of the decline of the monarch population in the area.  

In another lab activity, students help measure and record the forewing length of the monarch butterflies. Later they will analyze these data.

After completing about half of the case activities, students are summoned to the Head Snoop’s office for a performance review.

As the case progresses, students will eliminate most of the hypotheses for the decline of the monarch population. At this point, students conclude their investigation and write a final report for the client. MORE

Students who performed well receive a job promotion with fanfare at a Science Snoops staff party. If any unsolved cases remain, students receive an email prompt to choose another case. If all cases have been completed, students see a video conclusion. 

This approach to solving life science “mysteries” guides the students’ learning about scientific methods in research and is repeated in each case. After solving a number of cases in this fashion, students may acquire the basic skills to engage in scientific research projects on different topics. They will have had many opportunities to participate in teamwork, formulate hypotheses, make predictions, reason, analyze and evaluate data, draw conclusions, and communicate results.

The assessment features built into the software include cumulative scores for correct answers and specific feedback on each learning task. This provides students with an overall picture of how well they are doing. Additionally, students receive specific information relevant to their performance on each particular learning task, either confirming their conclusions or redirecting their efforts.

The Learning Management System (LMS) will include detailed information related to each student’s performance broken down by skills and content in a convenient table form that teachers may use to guide individual student and whole class learning.

All the learning activities are available in both game mode and practice mode so that students may revisit particularly difficult tasks and concepts and reflect on them carefully without the pressure of time constraints, and teachers may opt to present a task as a whole class activity.

Correlations to the NSES

Correlations to the California Science Content Standards

 Example of Atlas of Science Literacy correlation

Scientific inquiry strand:
Benchmark mapping:

9-12 grades

  • Hypotheses are widely used in science for choosing what data to pay attention to and what additional data to seek, and for guiding the interpretation of the data (both new and previously available)
  • There are different traditions in science about what is investigated and how, but they all have in common certain basic beliefs about the value of evidence, logic, and good arguments.

6-8 grades

  • Hypotheses are valuable, even if they turn out not to be true, if they lead to fruitful investigations.
  • Scientific investigations usually involve the collection of relevant evidence, the use of logical reasoning, and the application of imagination in devising hypotheses and explanations to make sense of the collected evidence.

Pilot test results

 © 2006 Kinder Magic Software