Kind of (not) a Paleo Class: Interview with youth co-developers of Pterosaurs The Card Game

Ricardo Mutuberria, from the Museum’s Global Business Development, sat down during the press briefing for our current special exhibit – Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs – with a few of the #scienceFTW youth participants to learn a bit about their experience in the program developing Pterosaurs: The Card Game. It went a little something like this:

What is your name and age?

Katie: Hey, I’m Katie and I am 14 years old.

David: I’m David. I’m 16 years old.

John: I’m John and I’m also 16 years old.

How did you hear about the program, #scienceFTW?

Katie: Generally I got involved in the museum because…it’s kind of unavoidable when you live on the upper west side. And I’ve been involved in the museum since I was a little kid and so I was on the email list when I got an email for something called “science for the win”, and I thought, “The name of the class is a hashtag. I gotta just give it a chance.”

John: When we were young, really children, like three years old, we got accepted into the Science and Nature Program for the museum, which allows younger children to get involved in science. And from there, because the museum really is very helpful to younger children and getting involved, we started to look around into more of the programs.

How did you learn how to make a card game of your own?

Katie: The way it started was, it was just a class where we would play games about science, with scientists. And then we would critique the game–we would critique the content to see if it was fun. We played some really bad games at first, and then they got slowly better. They were all just games that our teachers found for us. In the first couple of classes, those were just playing science card games with scientists, which I thought was very cool. And then halfway through we stopped critiquing games and instead used what we had learned about what makes a good science game and turned it into…this: Pterosaurs: The Card Game.

What was one of the best things you learned in this program?

Katie: Along with making this Pterosaurs game, we started making this other game, that doesn’t currently have a name, where you are a scientist and you do scientific research at the museum and then you make an exhibit. It is the most complicated card game I’ve seen in my life and it’s no where near completed. Our final version was just on index cards and it was very broken. But it made you think “There’s stuff going on in the future and when I grow up maybe I want to be a game designer.” And that was awesome.

John: We learned a lot from the Phylo game. As soon as we started building our own game we really had to get in-depth with all the research and everything, so that is when we started learning the most.

Why did you want to become involved in #scienceFTW and what did you enjoy most about the program?

John: I think what really got me involved in the program is that it’s an interactive thing. You are learning about science but you are also having fun and you play card games–not just science but also card mechanics. It’s kind of mixing what most people would think is boring science with a fun aspect to it, getting to play the game. There is another class that we met up with that combined the game Minecraft, a popular game, with science. And there were a lot of kids who might not even have looked at the museum at all had it not been for something interactive and new. If you want kids to get involved, I think that’s the best way to go.

Katie: Probably for me what was so great is that it is very different from what I do in school, but its the same kind of things that I really like. There wasn’t a whole lot of note taking, there wasn’t a whole lot of homework. We had a couple of homework assignments, but that was just to continuing working on what we had already started. The homework that we did was actually helping to create this final project. And that was great for me, instead of just busy-work. The final project is something that I have at home, it’s something that I’m really proud of, it’s something that I can show my friends.

There’s this interactive element where it combines what you really, really like and sneaks in science content without you even realizing it. Like Minecraft at the Museum, they did this whole unit on poisons, and it was very cool.

It’s mostly about making it fun. The way we were attracted to it was that it sounded different and it sounded like a fun way to spend our time.

David: The whole interactive aspect of the game and of anything in the museum pretty much attracts us. I personally loved to make something from scratch and build upon it. We started with the game Phylo. We made our own game and then based everything off of Phylo. After we finished Pterosaurs we went on to different games and we sort of started building more.

Katie: The other thing that really attracted me to the program were that the people that were running it, the grownups involved, were really cool. Along with the man who runs this program, Barry Joseph, he is really good at organizing things and he is really good at working with people our age. Sometimes there are people that are really good at science who don’t like kids. And then there are people that are really great with kids but don’t know science. He knows both. And then we had a teacher that was a game designer, the guy who invented Diner Dash was our teacher! And then we also had a teacher named Julia and she’s an evolutionary biologist, and they were all really nice cool people who you enjoy learning from, who are different from your your regular teachers. And that was very different from school where there are boring teachers and stuff.

John: While doing this class, we also met up with different students in different classes learning all sorts of things about science. Everybody can really do it.

Katie: We did have a combined class once with a conservation biology class and they were like “Are you guys a paleontology class?” And we were like “Kind of…” What’s different about this class compared to all of the other stuff is that we have this final project that is so beautiful. I love it!

John: Instead of just learning we are introducing it to other people.

Katie: And it’s going to be in the museum gift shop, it’s going to be on the museum website so tons of museum visitors of all ages can check it out and, its an added level of interest into the exhibit and it probably makes the exhibit a lot more fun. There’s all kinds of interactives in the exhibit itself but what I love about this is that you can take it home with you and treasure it forever.

How would you describe your experience in #scienceFTW?

John: It’s been a great program, thank you.

Katie: I would say it has been very insane what I’ve done. It’s really unlike any other afterschool class I’ve ever seen. You really don’t do a whole lot of things like this which is why I’ve loved it so much.

©AMNH Photo: Roderick Mickens

About Barry

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