A Custom-Made Board Game to Familiarise Primary School Children With Atoms





board game, atoms, primary school, game-based learning, particulate models, conceptual thinking


To discover the link between the abstract concept of atoms and the macroscopic material world is often seen as one of the key challenges for new students in chemistry. Failing to make this connection results in low student grades, little interest, and eventually small numbers of graduates in chemistry or related disciplines. Science education research approaches this challenge by designing and creating new learning experiences and curricula for children without any prior knowledge about atoms. One promising approach is to introduce atoms and/or sub-microscopic particles in late primary school, such that children can start making connections between the macroscopic and the microscopic world. In this paper, an educational, custom-made board game that combines science content and fun for primary school children is presented to accomplish this difficult task. The board game features cooperative gameplay for 2 to 4 players, simple strategic elements, and play time between 20 and 30 minutes. Intrinsic integration of the learning content was the leading design idea and, as a result, concrete associations between sub-microscopic particles and macroscopic events related to material hardness lie at the core of the game. Another pivotal criterion was that the game is fully playable for children at home, like other board games, or in school lessons. This contribution, therefore, discusses: (i) how the game works, (ii) the essential design elements of the current game from a designer’s and educator’s perspective; and (iii) the basic atomic concepts which could be facilitated by playing the game. Preliminary play tests suggest that players, or learners, believe the game to be fun, and appreciate the balance between elements of strategy and luck. In summary, a compact, playful activity could trigger children to think of hardness of solid materials as a property that emerges from the strength of interactions between atoms. Such a change in conceptual thinking could in turn ease students’ pathway for future chemistry education.