Pterosaurs: The Card Game Now Available for Online Purchase

All I can say is WOW!

This morning I delivered a box of Pterosaurs: The Card Game to the AMNH store (where all profits go to the Museum). By the end of the day I could see the decks available for sale on our online store (see bel0w). It has been some amazing journey from the first session of #scienceFTW, the program which incubated the game, to today.

I am so proud to work at an institution willing to be so innovative while enabling youth to participate in the development of a game that is both fun and educational.

Buy the cards here.

Buy the cards here (and don’t forget the free app to make the pterosaurs fly off your card).

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MicroMuseum, Session 4: Iterative Design & The Hall of Ocean Life

In our fourth session of MicroMuseum we looked at the process of iterative design and how it relates to what we will be doing over the next two months. Each youth picked a random piece of paper bearing one of the following phrases: design goal, rules and constraints, develop prototype, playtest, revise goal, and repeat. They were then challenged to find those with the same phrase then arrange themselves amongst the other phrases in the order of a good iterative design process. It was a good physically embodied way to make concrete these abstract ideas.

We then introduced the teens to the initial game design for our project  – MicroRangers: Keeping the Balance – but more on that in the future.

To advance that work, we visited the Hall of Ocean Life to imagine the types of interactions and games that could be part of MicroRangers (should that Hall be included). Working in groups, they were challenged to locate an exhibit that matched a randomly distributed description, learn about it, then offer a short pitch about how they might use an augmented reality experience to inform others about the imagined microbial interactions within the depicted dioramas.

For example:

Kelp Forests: Algae, such as the giant kelp are very important for human health for many reasons, including their use in thickening things like ice cream and toothpaste. Seaweeds are also used to wrap sushi rolls, but their cell walls are very hard to digest – that is, unless you’re Japanese. The gut microbes of Japanese people contain genes that can break down those seaweed cell walls. Using genetics, scientists learned that those genes came from bacteria that live on seaweed in the ocean and were horizontally transferred to the gut microbes.

Polar Seas: Up in the frozen Arctic, single-celled algae trap energy from sunlight and, using photosynthesis, convert it into sugars that form the basis of the food chain. The algae can grow in clumps under the ice, which will break off and float around, giving food to the tiny little grazing organisms that swim near the surface. However, scientists recently discovered that global climate change, which results in thinning ice pack, has a surprise consequence. Because more light travels through the thinner ice, the algae grow fast – so fast that they become heavy and sink to the bottom instead of floating near the top. Although the algae may not go to waste because bottom-dwelling creatures will consume them instead, the scientists are unsure how this may affect the overall Arctic ecosystem.

Deep Sea: Though the depths of the ocean do not receive any sunlight, some deep-sea fish have evolved a partnership with bacteria that can use a chemical reaction to produce light – a phenomenon called bioluminescence. The bacteria are often housed in specialized organs on the fish that they can cover up when they don’t want to be too flashy, or open up to expose the light from their symbionts. The fish can use the glows to signal to potential mates, attract prey, warn off predators, or communicate with each other.

As we were in the hall after closing time, we had the ocean-sized room to ourselves, which was a blast. Here are a few photos:







This Week’s Bonus Learning Activity

Next week we are going to play the popular mobile game Plague Inc. As a bonus learning activity, download the game, destroy humanity with two of the organic diseases below (no nano-viruses please), and write a comparison in the comment section below about the different strategies employed by the two plagues OR by humanity in response. For example, does the bacterial plague destroy humanity in a way different from the fungus? If you only want to focus on one plague, we will be trying the viral one – so feel free to practice and bring in your best strategies for infecting the world.


Next Session Reminder
No program on Tuesday!
Wednesday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Please bring lunch
Wait near Teddy and we will pick you up

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MicroMuseum, Session 3: Are You With Me Or Against Me?

This third session of MicroMuseum was brought to us by the words “Parasitic,” “Commensal“, and “Mutualist“. In other words, different type of relationships.

To start the day, the teens were paired up and challenged to act out a skit in which either:

  • one person benefits while the second person is harmed
  • both people benefit
  • one person benefits while the second person is neither harmed nor receives benefits

For some reason, bags of pretzels played a key role throughout all of these relationships.

Untitled Continue reading

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The Shedd Aquarium, Minecraft, and Virtual Piranha: An Interview with Wade Berger

Wade Berger is the Teen Learning Lab Manager at Shedd Aquarium. Shedd features the largest and most diverse collection of animals in any Aquarium in the world, one of largest cultural institutions in Chicago, and contains 32,000 animals representing more than 1,500 species. And last year Wade initiated their exploration of Minecraft. At the March Digital Media and Learning Conference in Boston, I caught up with him to see what they were doing. 

So, let’s jump right into it.  When did you start at the Shedd and when did you start using Minecraft?

So, I started there in September and the Teen Learning Lab opened a week minecraft backgroundafter as a free drop-in space for High School teens. The Teen Lab is supposed to be a hub for all the teen programs that happen at the Aquarium. With my background in games and learning from the University of Madison, I had been in contact with Joel Levin from MinecraftEdu. We talked a lot about different ways to use the game with several teachers at the Games Learning Society Conference. I knew there had to be a way in our drop-in program to use Minecraft, to connect teens while they are here but also figure out a way to open it up to teens who can’t make it to the lab.  Continue reading

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No. 29.2! Official Press Release for Pterosaurs: The Card Game

Below is a copy of the Museum’s press release, apparently no. 29.2 (as labelled at the bottom), focusing on Pterosaurs: The Card Game. Forgive me, but I had to share with all of you and kvell.


Pikachu, make way for Pterodactylus antiquus. The American Museum of Natural History is putting all its cards on the table introducing a new trading card game in conjunction with its exhibition Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs, which opens on Saturday, April 5. Continue reading

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Registration Opens for New Anthropology & Games Summer Program for Middle Schoolers

I am always super excited to launch a new program at the Museum but this one has been in discussion for a long time and I am thrilled about the direction it has taken. The new Anthropology: Boards, Cards and Dice program, which just happens to have the lovely acronym ABCD, will be a two-day summer camp for middle school youth to work with one of the Museum’s curators who just happens to study games from an anthropological perspective. Fun! Below are the promotional details. Please help spread the word. Note: There is a fee for those who can pay but its free for everyone else.


While video and computer games are barely a half-century old, physical games with boards, cards and dice go back not hundreds, but thousands of years. Played everywhere humans can be found, they have facilitated human interaction across and within cultures. The study of games can teach us about human behavior, history and migration while, at the same time, illustrating the practice of Anthropological research. Continue reading

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The TinyTeddys Are Coming

On May 10th, the TinyTeddys are coming… (teaser link)


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