Earlier this year Dr James Moss, Dr Saleh and I created a game based tutorial called the High Altitude Game that aimed to bring together a years’ worth of pharmacology and physiology knowledge for 1st year medics. The game has a simple premise; you (in a group of 6 people) are a single medical officer on an expedition climbing Everest with the responsibility for the medical needs of your climbers. There are six timed challenges and points are scored for each including your team name. You start at base camp and must decide who can and cannot go on the trip i.e. should someone with COPD climb Everest? As the game takes twists and turns you must diagnose and treat party members including a wondering exile who is slowly making his way down the mountain. There are board game style pieces that you assemble giving a practical feel to the tutorial. The game was designed to be challenging to 1st year medics requiring them to make quick decisions to treat their climbers.
I was asked by Dr Rebecca Holloway from Imperial Outreach to play the game with lower 6th form students at their annual summer school. Imperial Outreach, headed by Dr Annalisa Alexander and her highly dedicated team, focusses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and gives school children of a variety of ages the opportunity to experience university teaching regardless of background. Every student I have taught at outreach over the past 2 years has been focussed, enthusiastic and dedicated so I was really looking forward to playing the High Altitude Game with them.
I did not alter the game to fit the level of 6th formers, but rather opted to teach students the medical physiology that would be needed, through a lecture in the first half of the day. The students were told to take notes on the information that they thought would be relevant to the game. I hoped here that when playing the game they would share their notes learning from each other.
The lecture was broken into discussion sessions where newly learned topics were discussed in groups related to diseases such as asthma and COPD to solidify the new knowledge acquired. Ideas from these discussion sessions were presented to the class via a poster that the students created. There were further discussions as a class on the presentation and the students were eager to ask questions. The subject matter was further broken up by other mini games, one of which involved handicapping one group of students with lab goggles covered in cling film and pitting them against another group of students at a buzzwire game to highlight the effects of high altitude cerebral oedema on vision, focus and dexterity.
In the second half of the day, we played the High Altitude Game. The students were split into different teams with a mentor whose task was to facilitate discussions during the game in a PBL style without giving the answers to the challenges. The mentors, Anabelle (Biomedical science), Charlotte (Biomedical science) and Rishi (2nd year medic) worked incredibly hard to keep the game running smoothly especially when we played the sound of a mountain storm for half of the game full blast through the speakers.
At the end of the day the mentors and I tallied the scores and were delighted to see that all groups completed the game with high marks above 70%. However, as there could only be one winner the group scoring the highest marks received Terry’s chocolate oranges.
It was a very challenging and fun filled day. I would like to thank the mentors, Shreya (Outreach lab technician) and Dr Holloway for their hard work and effort in making the day run smoothly.
We received positive feedback for the day from the students. Generally they liked the way the lecture fit into the High Altitude Game. They aspect of the game they particularly enjoyed was that the tasks were practical and that they integrated into the game narrative. The students worked very hard to deal with all challenges the day had to offer them. I wish them well in their future pursuits whether they be academic or otherwise.
Written by Tankut Guney