Nevada Schools to Pilot New Game-Based STEAM Platform

Planet3, a year-old company that has developed a new digital platform intended to use the Earth as a "living laboratory" will undergo pilot testing at 25 middle schools in six school districts in Nevada this fall as part of an early adopter pilot program.

Among those will be the Clark County School District, which encompasses Las Vegas and is the state's largest school district.

Using the Planet3 platform, students will be immersed in games designed to use data from NASA, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and other research sources to learn real-world science that meshes with the Next Generation Science Standards. The intention is to encourage students to gather evidence and craft conclusions through the use of data analytics and visualization.

For instance, students can play the role of a storm chaser to track and predict the path of a tornado. Another mission will take students deep into an Icelandic volcano to learn about earthquakes, tectonic plates and other elements unique to the island's natural environment.

At least eight online and in-person professional development training sessions have been planned to help teachers use the tool. The teachers and districts will offer their feedback throughout the year on the platform, which is expected to go into wide distribution in fall 2017.

Planet3 was founded by a group headed by Tim Kelly, who for 30 years was president of the National Geographic Society. It started out with $10 million in seed funding from the Nevada-based Switch, which developed the Supernap Data Centers. Switch recently invested an additional $3 million in Planet3.

"Planet3 is an advanced storytelling platform for STEAM [science, technology, engineering, art and math]," Kelly said. "It is delivered by a powerful software developed specifically for schools striving to take advantage of new technology."

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.