Thea Awards Recipients

Thea Awards 2017

Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement - Connected Immersion in Education

Senate Immersion Module, Edward M Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, Boston, MA USA

The Senate Immersion Module (SIM) unfolds within a full-scale model that replicates the Senate Chamber in Washington, D.C. This role-playing experience at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, a non-profit educational destination on the campus of the University of Massachusetts, uniquely and interactively demonstrates how the United States Senate operates. It is targeted to middle- and high-school students.

Students are sworn in as senators for the day. The experience is supported by live actors and a handheld tablet app. The app gives each participant a unique identifier that allows them to choose their state, create a profile, learn about an issue, and form a position. The app shares updates throughout the day: new information, provisions and amendments. It culminates with a roll-call vote on the floor of the Senate Chamber.


The SIM brings learning to life, impacting student behavior and retention. In terms of guest and community impact, the SIM stands out for its effective education of future voters to the nuances of the political process. It is an educational immersion experience that teaches students how to compromise and listen. It provides an online curriculum for teachers and students to help prepare, then debrief afterward.

This connected immersion attraction is one of the first of its kind for bipartisan US history education. Like many connected immersion experiences, because of the strong role for the participants, no one element has to carry the whole attraction. This is an example of what is possible in educating students born under the digital umbrella and who, quite frankly, can be hard to impress and even harder to engage.

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Award Credits