Monster Music is a game for teaching 7th-grade science that addresses common misconceptions about electricity and energy.
The misconception we are addressing in Monster Music is that electricity is a substance rather than energy. We are trying to help teachers who are focusing on the properties of energy and matter by providing them with an analogy that helps students imagine how something as ephemeral as energy can have a powerful effect on matter. The analogy we are using is about music.
Since students can tell the difference between “mere sound” and “music” (provided the music is not too abstract or avant-garde), we use it to help them notice that it is the arrangement, the alignment, of sounds that creates the music, not the physical act of playing (i.e., striking or blowing into) the instrument. In addition the game conveys the notion that even though music is not a substance, it can have a powerful effect on matter (in the case of the game, on people).
Monster Music uses a familiar video game genre, in this case a “platformer.” ( a good example of a platformer is the Mario Brothers series) interspersed with mini-games which here are alignment puzzles. The platformer fantasy world of Harmonia presents the player with a series of quests, which in the context of the narrative involve encountering characters feeling depleted of energy. Within this game world, where the task is to run, jump, climb and overcome obstacles, players on a quest must find a music studio. Here, unruly monster musicians await and the player must properly align them so that music can be recorded. Each recording requires the solving of three alignment puzzles. Once a successful recording is in hand, players can complete their quest by returning to the characters in the game and energize them with music.
Music Monsters: First Quest and Aligning Puzzle
The alignment of musicians revolves around an analogy to positive or negative poles. Each musician has one open and one closed hand. When the open hand of one meets the closed hand of its neighbor – in effect holding hands–the two are aligned. Music only emerges, however, when all of the musicians are aligned – there is no partial music, as there is no partial electricity.
Monster Music: Second Quest and Aligning Puzzle
The literacy activity in this game is also about alignment. It asks students to align words so that they form a meaningful sentence. Hints are provided (capitalizing the first letter of a word or adding a period at the end of a word, etc.) in case students are unfamiliar with the scrambled saying.
Monster Music: Literacy Puzzle