Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 59-82

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Relating Narrative, Inquiry, and Inscriptions: Supporting Consequential Play

  • Sasha A. BarabAffiliated withSchool of Education, Indiana University Email author 
  • , Troy D. SadlerAffiliated withSchool of Teaching & Learning, University of Florida
  • , Conan HeiseltAffiliated withSchool of Education, Indiana University
  • , Daniel HickeyAffiliated withSchool of Education, Indiana University
  • , Steven ZuikerAffiliated withSchool of Education, Indiana University


In this paper we describe our research using a multi-user virtual environment, Quest Atlantis, to embed fourth grade students in an aquatic habitat simulation. Specifically targeted towards engaging students in a rich inquiry investigation, we layered a socio-scientific narrative and an interactive rule set into a multi-user virtual environment gaming engine to establish a virtual world through which students learned about science inquiry, water quality concepts, and the challenges in balancing scientific and socio-economic factors. Overall, students were clearly engaged, participated in rich scientific discourse, submitted quality work, and learned science content. Further, through participation in this narrative, students developed a rich perceptual, conceptual, and ethical understanding of science. This study suggests that multi-user virtual worlds can be effectively leveraged to support academic content learning.


educational games simulations socio-scientific inquiry consequential play inscriptions