Using mobile devices, videos, and old-fashioned detective work, "Animal on the Loose" challenges kids to solve a mystery at a zoo.
In the summer of 2012, a researcher on the Isles of Imagination shipped a crate to Noah's Landing, a small non-profit zoo in North Carolina. Inside?
Well, it's funny you should ask...
When the staff pried open the wooden crate to peer inside, they were expecting to pull out boxes of rare supplements for their captive primates. Instead, an unidentified creature leapt from the box, evaded their efforts to grab it, and is now wreaking havoc on the zoo at night. Your charge? Work with the remote researcher to develop a sketch of the animal based on its behaviors, its similarities to other zoo dwellers, and artifacts from its native habitat. Then.... find it!
Wait... what is this?
"Animal on the Loose" will be an alternate reality game that immerses players in a fictional "search" for an escaped, unidentified species at Noah's Landing, a non-profit zoo in central North Carolina. (Think murder mystery weekend but with digital artifacts and, you know, kids. And a zoo.) Drawing on similar games at Elmwood Park Zoo and educational gaming theory, the game will challenge participants to decipher and infer clues shared online and in the physical environment, make and test hypotheses, and create content such as posters, news stories, and research reports within the game narrative. The game's unique physical setting - an actual zoo - will allow players to deepen their own understanding of the real animals they encounter while trying to solve the mystery. The game will unfold in real-time creating an immersive and unique experience for players.
With help from the community, a pilot version of the game will be played in late July with participants in the zoo's Junior Zookeeper program. Zoo artifacts will then be repurposed into a gaming experience that teachers and families can utilize on field trips and weekend visits. If we exceed our expectations? We can package the artifacts and develop facilitator guides so that the game can be customized and deployed at other zoos using a Creative Commons (CC BY) license.
What's the potential impact?
Zoos, museums, and other informal learning settings can be powerful teachers outside the walls of the classroom. Too often, however, visitors speed past exhibit signs or fail to connect the facts that they hear with other concepts and themes. "Animal on the Loose" will use a "messy problem" to encourage kids to dig deeper, create connections, develop digital artifacts, and work collaboratively. We hope it will inspire similar efforts at other informal science institutions and perhaps a few future scientists!
Here's the thing about small non-profit zoos -- they are small, non-profit zoos. With most of the funds going toward animal care, our educational programs are often under-funded. That's why we're hoping to kick start this project with an infusion of community support. KickStarter funds will help us develop high-quality video artifacts and support the printing of the players' "investigation notebooks" and other promotional materials. We'll also use the funds to develop a website where players can share their creations.
If you watch the video, you'll see that a big piece of the funds will go toward the purchase of mobile devices for the zoo. We're building the game artifacts to be device neutral but know that many of the campers won't walk in with their own devices to decipher QR codes, take pictures, or capture video. Purchasing mobile devices will allow us to test the game during the zoo's summer camp and then keep the devices at the zoo so any family or teacher can "check them out" to play the game during zoo hours.
If we exceed our expectations, we hope to package the materials into toolkits that can be downloaded, modified, and deployed at zoos around the world. (That's right -- escaped, unidentified species everywhere!)
What's in it for you?
Ever seen the response on a camper's face when you suggest another round of "Red Rover?" We have. And it's not fun. By supporting our efforts, you'll be supporting a weeklong game that will give our campers and participants a purpose, a challenge, and a unique memory. You will also be supporting our own efforts to document and deploy the game. (Lessons we hope others will take and run with.) Most importantly, you'll be joining us to create a game that's fun, educational, immersive, and, ARGuably, a great idea.
(Plus -- did we mention you can name a character or make a cameo experience? Check it out on the right!)
Follow the progress at: http://arguablyfun.wordpress.com/
Kudos and Thanks
The rockin' video tunes are "Another Girl" by duckett, provided via a CC BY-NC 3.0 license. Videography by Jon Page. Special thanks to all the critters at Noah's Landing who participated in this video. None of the animals were harmed in the filming of this video. Copious treats, however, were handed out at every turn.
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
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Pledge $1 or moreYou selected
The overwhelming gratitude of a bunch of pre-teen campers who can play this game rather than another (insert groan here) round of "Red Rover." Oh, we'll also credit you on the Noah's Landing website and the website for the game.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $25 or moreYou selected
A handwritten thank you note that features photography of our zoo critters. Also, a sigh of relief from our camp staff after they get to introduce this game instead of more macaroni necklaces. (Sigh of relief may dissipate in shipping.) Plus, a shout out on our website!Estimated delivery:
Pledge $50 or moreYou selected
It's not just about supporting games - it's about supporting learning at a unique non-profit zoo. So why not show your Noah's Landing love with a zoo T-shirt? You can wear it while you check out your name on our supporters webpage.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $100 or moreYou selected
Want to play the game yourself? With a $100 contribution, you can score free passes to visit Noah's Landing and a chance to play the visitors version of the game game. You can also meet the game designers! (While they, you know, show you a skunk or coatimundi.)Estimated delivery:
Pledge $150 or moreYou selected
1 backer Limited (4 left of 5)
Know what makes a good story? Characters. And clearly your contribution shows you've got some. Want to be one? For $150, we'll let you name a character in the game narrative! We'll also send along a Noah's Landing T-shirt and send you updates during the pilot deployment.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $250 or moreYou selected
Such a large contribution deserves something truly unique - how's an autographed game artifact from one of the summer players? That's right - hand over $250 and receive a unique piece of artwork created and signed by our pre-teen players. We'll also send you updates during the pilot deployment of the game so you can play along with the campers!Estimated delivery:
Pledge $500 or moreYou selected
Score the "ARG" in a box. That's right, we'll bundle the videos, the curriculum guide, and a copy of our investigator's notebook and send it your way so you can play it with your own kids, friends, or herd of friendly llamas. (Hey -- some of us count llamas as friends!)Estimated delivery:
Pledge $1,000 or moreYou selected
0 backers Limited (2 left of 2)
$1,000?!?! $1,000?!?! For $1,000, get your own cameo in the ARG video. (Don't worry - we'll provide the safari hat.)Estimated delivery:
- (25 days)