Most of us could learn a lot about games from middle-schoolers. These kids are smart. But it happens to be an age-group that is relatively underserved when it comes to games that really teach. So it’s exciting that the folks at science and tech non-profit, Iridescent, have launched a new series of physics games called Ethers, with this age group in mind. Dr. Kevin Miklasz, Director of Digital Learning for Iridescent, says he had a simple design goal in mind when creating Ethers: to embed the learning into the actual mechanics of the games. Instead of applying arbitrary rules, he worked with developer Robot Super Brain to develop rules for the games that reflect real-world phenomena. The first game in the series, The Fluid Ether, aims to engage students in learning about systems in the natural world through experiential gameplay, and has teacher resources built-in, making it applicable for classroom use. In The Fluid Ether, students learn about the physics of fluid dynamics. Players turn jets on and off to create patterns of play that accomplish simple level objectives like breaking blocks and collecting coins, and they can customize the game through level editors. Students move through increasingly difficult tasks, picking up knowledge of scientific principles along the way. By making learning active and tied to gameplay, kids gain an intuitive feel for these physics principles. Iridescent’s philosophy is to make all of its experiences for kids intrinsically rewarding, so their learning will be fun, natural and self-sustaining. Play it here.