We know that students learn from playing educational games. Building Systems from Scratch believes there is more joy and empowerment, and deeper learning when students design the games themselves.

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STEM fields are constantly innovating with new computational tools to represent data about our natural world. Educational games in schools are already a success. Building Systems from Scratch goes a step further, working from the premise that when students build their own games, they construct knowledge at the same time.

With Building Systems from Scratch, 8th grade students design and build games to teach others about climate change. Three modules engage them with climate science, systems, game design principles, and computational thinking.


  • participate in jigsaw learning to conduct independent research on climate science
  • use principles of game design to design their educational games 
  • learn Scratch, an MIT-developed visual programming language
  • program their games collaboratively
  • engage in critique sessions that are art studio-inspired to deepen knowledge and improve game design.

We throw words around all the time like “student-centered”...but this was really a test of that. The application of that. And it was good for me, because I had no choice...So I told the kids and was up front with them, “You can call me over...and I can consult you and I can think aloud, but you really have to help solve it with X, Y, and Z.” And every time I kept saying it, they would grow from that, and I would grow from that and watch." 

– Mr. M, Teacher