Ava & Trix: Adventurous sisters make science fun for schoolkids

Summary

Flemish developers of point-and-click game set out to ensure that science lessons will never be boring again

Adventure is calling

Do you know how to power a light bulb with lemons? Ava and Trix do.

Together with their cat, Donder, the sisters embark on all sorts of fun adventures, from crafting the lemon-powered bulbs to building rockets out of plastic bottles and water. As you tag along, don’t forget to fill up your toolbox with some essential items – strands of wire, some batteries, a key and a magnifying glass – you’ll need them later 

At the end of the journey, the trio have to solve one final riddle to ensure a successful ending, relying on the scientific know-how they picked up throughout the journey; your role is to help them. With the toolbox in hand, you conduct the experiment in real life, and hey presto.

Ava & Trix is a point-and-click game for primary schools that adds elements of interactivity and fun to the classroom, with the aim of making science more appealing to children. “It’s a form of learning through experimenting,” explains Dieter Honoré of educational games developer Curious Cats. “We confront the pupils with a problem that they then solve by experimenting with common household items. It may have been designed for tablets, but Ava & Trix has a real-life component as well.”

Sparking enthusiasm

The focus is on nurturing young children’s passion for science. As a result, Honoré says, Ava and Trix’s adventures are less about the transfer of knowledge than about sparking enthusiasm for technology and experimenting, something that regular science courses often lack. The game format was also a clear choice from the very beginning.

“One of our developers was really good at science as a student,” Honoré says. “But she decided to go into graphic design because nobody at school made her realise the fun and usefulness of science and technology. Her experience is what is inspired us to develop Ava & Trix for today’s classrooms.”

It is a completely different way of teaching a subject that’s not the easiest to relate to children

- Primary school teacher Aurélie D’Haese

Teacher Aurélie D’Haese of Sint-Bavo primary school in Ghent is convinced of the game’s benefits and has used it in the classroom on several occasions. “My pupils are very enthusiastic about it,” she says. “It is a completely different way of teaching a subject that’s not the easiest to relate to children. Both the characters and the stories are captivating, and the digital format works fine for both students and teachers.”

Ava & Trix requires little extra preparations from her side. “For many of my colleagues, teaching science and technology is somehow a sensitive matter,” she says. “The app offers a ready-made method for getting my students excited about science. We are definitely going to continue with this programme.” 

The game was launched in October to positive reception. So far 250 schools have put the digital science course into practice, confirming Honoré and the other developers’ idea that science is easier to learn when the pupils are engaged. “We see that children discover the joy in conducting experiments, and they develop skills to formulate and test hypotheses.”

Role models

Most importantly, Honoré adds, “the app turns the usual classroom dynamic on its head. Ava & Trix does not appeal to common factual knowledge but to skills like trying things out and experimenting. Pupils who lag behind in other lessons often perform best when they work with our app.”

With two girls in the leading roles, the game also offers a role model to girls interested in science and technology. “We frequently hear from teachers that Ava & Trix is very inclusive,” Honoré says. “That’s the best compliment we could ever receive.” 

Photo courtesy Curious Cats