National Ocean Service Education

National Estuarine Research Reserve System

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Montgomery College Computer Simulation and Gaming Program

Media Contact:

Ben Sherman

Elizabeth Homan, Montgomery College

NOAA Launches Online Game that Encourages Students to Learn About Estuaries

March 17, 2009

NOAA's National Ocean Service launched a new educational online game ”WaterLife: Where Rivers Meet the Sea” today at the annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association in New Orleans.

Developed through a partnership with Montgomery (Maryland) College’s Computer Gaming and Simulation program and designed in cooperation with NOAA's National Estuarine Research Reserve System for students at the fourth through seventh grade level, the web-based game provides science instruction through a series of challenges and animations.

“Our students had the opportunity of a lifetime to design a game that will make a difference in the education of middle school students,” said Deborah Solomon, the professor at Montgomery College. “This year-long project provided my students with some true real-life work experience that will benefit not only them but future generations.”

The game occurs inside the ecosystem of an estuary on the West Coast of the United States. Following a young girl named Valerie, players interact with Oscar the sea otter, and the fictional Claminator, a geoduck clam. To succeed, players must learn about the factors that produce healthy estuaries, food webs, and why estuaries are essential to both ocean life and to humans. Students recycle and clean up trash, remove obstructions in waterways, replant the habitat to bring back food webs, and battle pollution monsters to restore Oscar’s home. The game is available at

“This educational tool provides a series of possibilities for students to explore our nation’s biologically rich and economically important estuaries and learn more about NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve System,” according to Atziri Ibañez, national education coordinator for the reserve system which incorporates 27 estuarine reserves in 21 states and Puerto Rico. “The game will work together with the newly developed Estuaries 101 Curriculum to create awareness and knowledge of the rich biological and physical processes of estuaries.”

“WaterLife: Where Rivers Meet the Sea” is being launched in conjunction with the National Science Teachers Association conference in New Orleans. Each year thousands of science educators meet to bring the very latest science content, research findings, and teaching techniques to the classroom teacher. NOAA's National Ocean Service is an active partner with NSTA in the development of teacher training materials using NOAA content.

Montgomery College is a public open admissions community college with three campuses, plus workforce development and continuing education centers and off site programs throughout Montgomery County, Maryland. The college serves nearly 60,000 students a year through both credit and non-credit programs in more than 100 areas of study.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.