Final Presentation by #scienceFTW

Ruth Sherman is a new intern at the AMNH, from NYU’s Program in Digital Media Design for Learning. She assisted in the last month of programming for #scienceFTW program and graciously offered to write up the exciting final program session, in which family and Museum scientists fought snow to hear all about the program.

On Wednesday, January 22nd #scienceFTW held its final session as a culminating expo. It was a great success. The participants talked about the process they went through over the past 20 sessions, detailing what they learned and what they accomplished throughout the program.

To start their presentation they posed some questions to the audience:

  • Do you want to hear how we learned about science by playing games WITH scientists?

  • Do you want to play our new game about pterosaurs with us?

  • Do you want to hear about the prototype for a new game about AMNH scientists?

Of course the audience answered affirmatively to each question and, if you do as well, read on…

Do you want to hear how we learned about science by playing games WITH scientists?

The teens explained the first part of their program in which they played science-based card games with scientists in the field. One of the participants reflected that one of the best parts of the program for them was that they were able to have “regular conversations with actual scientists and they saw us as equals, not just kids.” Some of the games they played had good science content, some had good game design, and some had both. Three examples of games were given. Parasites Unleashed was an example of a game they thought had good science content, but poor game design. Astronauts was an example of a game with good design, but poor science content. Finally, Bone Wars was an example of both a good game design with, good science content.

Do you want to play our new game about pterosaurs with us?

Next the audience got to try out the “new game about pterosaurs.” When receiving their own copy to take home of the professionally printed cards for the first time, in the previous session, the teens were heard exclaiming: “I don’t even want to open it;”  “It’s more than I ever thought it would be!” “I want to play it right now!” and “They are really freakin’ pretty!” So they were really excited to explain how they made them then play with the family and scientists in attendance.

Katie not totally disinterested in her first professionally-printed deck of Pterosaurs: The Card Game.

Katie demonstrating the AR component – watch that pterosaur fly!

The teens explained how Phylo, an open game-development tool where people can create cards that teach about ecosystems, and ho wit served as a jumping-off point for Pterosaurs: the Card Game (as far as gameplay and rules). The teens made changes and additions as they researched, designed and playtested. Some of the cards will also have an AR (augmented reality) component, so when scanned using an app, pterosaurs moving, flying, walking or running will appear. This addition will help players gain a greater understanding of pterosaur locomotion. This was demonstrated with two of the cards.

Decks were passed out and the audience learned how to play. The teens split up, taught the rules, answered questions, and played the game with the audience. And the game was a hit. When asked what they were most proud of during the entire program many of the teens reflected that it was making this game. One wrote, “My favorite thing that happened during the program was taking the game Phylo, playing it, and then modifying it.” Other students reflecting on what they were most proud of in the entire program wrote, “The finished game product,” “That we created our own card game,” “We made a game,” and “Making the Pterosaur game!”

AMNH scientist Alex de Voogt stares down Gio, who is about to disrupt Alex’s food chain…

… until Alex plays the “I Don’t Think So” card, which negates it!

Ruth look to Katie suggests, “Are you really going to play that card against me?” while Katie throws up her hands.

Do you want to hear about the prototype for a new game about AMNH scientists?

The Grand Exhibition is the working title for the prototype that the teens created during the final weeks of their program. The process of creation included researching AMNH science expeditions by visiting some of the halls, science labs, and locations with documentation within the research library, as well as reading books and articles about the expeditions and their related exhibitions. The discovered all sorts of extraordinary true stories of adventure and intrigue. Their topics were the The Jesup Expedition/ Hall of North West Coast Indians, the Gobi Desert dinosaur excavation in the 1920s and 1990s, and the Komodo Dragon expedition/exhibit.

Nick and Katie researching the Hall of North West Coast Indians.

Julia introducing AMNH scientist Chris Raxworthy before going behind the scenes to meet a live turtle and a real Komodo Dragon.

Shepard introducing the prototype.

When asked what science content they might want to continue to pursue  in the future, one student reflected that “I learned a lot about Gobi expeditions, and they were pretty interesting, so I may go into it some more.” They organized their collected research into shared Google documents, narrowed it down and created a rough prototype of a card game that includes such things as explorer and equipment cards. Though it is a prototype now, it may be expanded in future programs.

Working out the game flow.

Before they made their presentations, the teens were asked to write some reflections about their time in the program. I’ve included some of their responses throughout this post, but all of their awesome reflections are listed below:

What was your favorite thing that happened during the program?

  • “Seeing a different side of the museum”
  • “Seeing our finished pterosaur game, and the Ha Ha, No card.”
  • “I loved when Chris Raxworthy came and showed us the museum’s herpetology collection, and the tortoises”
  • “Creating the pterosaurs card game.”
  • “Looking at those decks of cards from around the world.”
  • “My favorite thing that happened during the program was taking the game Phylo, playing it, and then modifying it.”
  • “When the game is published.”

What is something you learned about an area of science you hope to pursue in future?

  • “The research done at the museum is fascinating and the history of the museum is way cooler than I thought it was.”
  • “Research conduction and herpetology.”
  • “That animal dung can tell you about animal’s lifestyles.”
  • “I learned too much about parasites, but I am interested in them.”
  • “I learned a lot about Gobi expeditions, and they were pretty interesting, so I may go in to it some more.”
  • “Biology”

What is something you learned about game design you hope to pursue in the future?

  • “The data processing working with those massive Google docs is a great skill.”
  • “I learned at what stage you should – or shouldn’t – play test.”
  • “That games always break the first time you play them.”
  • “I learned about how to criticize bad games in more technical terms.”
  • “I learned that every game is broken and playtesting is a good way to fix it.”
  • “How to know if a game is good or bad”

 What is something you are most proud of about your time in the program?

  • “The finished game product, and having calm, regular conversations with actual scientists and they saw us as equals, not just kids.”
  • “The cards are pretty.”
  • “That we created our own card game.”
  • “My drawing of the mountain lion.”
  • “Making the Pterosaur game!”
  • “We made a game.”

About Barry

The Associate Director For Digital Learning, Youth Initiatives at the American Museum of Natural History.
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3 Responses to Final Presentation by #scienceFTW

  1. Really fun program! Looking forward to seeing many new card sets for sale in the AMNH Gift Shop!

  2. I WANT THOSE CARDS NOW! So awesome, congrats to the kids and the facilitators on a great program.

  3. Pingback: Heading to #scio14: a short to-do list. |

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