Thursday, June 30
4:30 PM-5:00 PM
Room 1.1 - Faculty of Letters Building

Critical Middle School Years: Math, Science and Career Simulation in a Learning-Based Virtual World

Corporate Showcase ID: 32981
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    Cliff Zintgraff
    DaVinci Minds

Abstract: is a learning-based virtual world for teens and pre-teens ("tweens"). Founded in 1999, Whyville has served over 6 million users, and has 200,000 unique users per month from the U.S., Canada, and around the globe. Whyville has its own newspaper, economy and government, with activities in math, science, art, economics, journalism, finance, entrepreneurship, life science, manufacturing, and much more. In the U.S., Whyville is being introduced into middle school classrooms to teach students about math, science and careers. Research indicates that grades 5-8 are crucial times to engage middle school students, especially girls, in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math ("STEM") education. Learn how Whyville-based curriculum is advancing middle school education, and how schools anywhere can bring tools like Whyville into classrooms.


(1) Demonstrate use of computer-based tools, virtual worlds, and simulation technology into classrooms; (2) demonstrate the value of integrating career, math and science education in middle school; (3) disseminate awareness of the importance of middle school years as the launching point for STEM education; (4) demonstrate through example how directed inquiry (exploratory) learning can work in classrooms.

Topical Outline

(1) Demonstration of Whyville with audience participation in the green energy "WhyPower" activity; (2) discussion of lecture-based vs. inquiry-driven learning; discussing advantages of directed inquiry learning; (3) short literature review of importance of STEM education in middle school; (4) presentation of samples of the "WhyPower' middle school curriculum; (5) "how to" advice on use in classrooms.


There are no required pre-requisites for individual attendees. The presentation will benefit if attendees in the room have a mix of experience from one or more of the following backgrounds: thought leaders, educational researchers, policymakers, secondary school administrators, teachers, and government policymakers in the field if education and workforce/economic development; a theme running through the workshop will be the role of secondary schools as drivers of economic development.

Experience Level



The instructor is CEO of DaVinci Minds, Inc.,, an education and regional economic development company operating at the intersection of technology, education and workforce development. He holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Trinity University, San Antonio, TX, USA, and an M.S. in Technology Commercialization from the University of Texas at Austin. He is co-founder of the Information Technology and Security Academy (ITSA) for 11th and 12th grade students in San Antonio, and co-leads middle school initiatives for the Texas Business and Education Coalition. He led development of WhyCareers, a middle school curriculum based on Whyville that engages middle school students in integrated career, math and science education. He is familiar with Portuguese challenges in economic development and education through an ongoing project with the University of Texas at Austin to develop technology transfer programs with Portuguese public universities, working on-site with universities in Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra, Aveiro, GuimarĂ£es, and Faro.
No presider for this session.


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