The 1st Month of #scienceFTW: Parasites & Koi Koi

This month we launched a new program, #scienceFTW, in which teenagers are learning all about science through science-based card games and will eventually co-develop two different Pokemon-style card games.

(photos from the month can be seen here)

The first session introduced the teens to each other, the program team, and the end goal: co-develop two deck building games, one modifying the game Phylo using content from our upcoming exhibit on pterosaurs and the second a prototype about the thrilling work of museum-based scientists. We also played our first science-based card game, Parasites Unleashed, reviewed on this blog earlier in the year. (The youth, alas, were less generous than I).

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Yesterday we took things in a different direction. We had a guest scientist from the Museum, Alex de Voogt. Alex is a researcher and assistant curator of African Ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History and researches the dispersal of board games and the development and history of scripts. We were super excited to have him speak with us today about the culture of card games.

Alex got us all on the group and pulled out one deck of cards after another – from Spain, from France, from Japan – each time challenging us to notice what stayed the same, what changed, and why.

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Then we played the Japanese game Koi Koi on a deck of Hawaiian Hanafuda cards – which is part of what this program is all about: getting to learn by playing games with scientists!

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Afterwards, Nick Fortugno – program co-developer and co-facilitator – introduced a basic formula of games design: goals + rules = fun.

So what DID they learn by the end of the session? At the end of the day, one teen summed it up when he said, “It doesn’t matter what you put on a card as long as it has purpose.”

About Barry

The Associate Director For Digital Learning, Youth Initiatives at the American Museum of Natural History.
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