WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
80% of the jobs in the future will be based in math and science, yet science is the most overlooked and under-taught subject in elementary schools.
Children are born with an innate fascination with the natural world. They need direction in school or at home in order to put their curiosity together with concepts. Even concepts can only take you so far; children need to learn how to think and process in a logical and scientific manner. Scientific processing skills are essential for a career in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field and to be an informed member of society.
What would happen if we took the words of others at face value, without the ability to critically analyze them? Would we acknowledge climate change? Would we allow new medical breakthroughs? Scientific thinking helps us understand and evaluate the world around us.
Part of the reason that science is so overlooked in the classrooms is because teachers are not very comfortable with the subject material. Elementary school teachers are generally not required to take more than one or two science classes at the university level…if they are required to take any at all. How is an educator supposed to teach the subject if they have scientific misconceptions and a lack of appreciation?
This video games eliminates those barriers by providing everything that a teacher needs to hit the ground running and introduce science in the classroom in a fun way. Students will enjoy playing the game not only at school but also at home in the form of a series of tablet apps. Kids will be able to continue the science education outside of the classroom and parents can promote science at home.
WHO ARE WE?
Our team includes members of Budding Biologist as well as collaborators from the University of California-Davis and Michigan State University. Budding Biologist is a partnership started in April 2012 by two ambitious women. Both Kristine Duehl (PhD – Ecology) and Katy Castronovo (BA-Art) became frustrated with the scientific inaccuracies of children’s books and teamed up to create books that are beautiful, fun, and scientifically accurate. The Budding Biologist team also includes a business manager, Emily (MBA), an education director, Karen Boley (MS – Education), a public relations/marketing director, Kate Bingham, and a software engineering expert, Walter Hsiao.
Budding Biologist has previously focused on non-fiction science children's books. The most popular is “Am I an Insect?” We are expanding to produce a video game which includes the characters from our book as well as new characters. Katy’s artwork has been a big hit for being both beautiful and scientifically accurate.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
You become involved in promoting science education by donating to our Kickstarter.
There are personal incentives, such as a copy of the first game app, and access to a beta site where you're able to test the video games as they become available and provide feedback. You can become part of the video game design process!
There are also school incentives: If you include your teacher’s name and school along with the amount that you donate in the comments section on the side, those donations will be grouped together to work towards classroom and site/school licenses, first for the apps and later for the educational package.
We have a very short timeline for this Kickstarter because in order for the National Science Foundation to match 50% of the funds we raise, we need to raise at least $30,000 by October 15 - assuming the government is open again by then!
Kickstarter is one of the ways that we are trying to raise these funds. If we can raise even just $10,000 this will bring us closer to NSF's requirement.
Only you can help keep us going during our funding gap (see below for more info on the funding gap).
Please donate, tweet, Facebook and spread the word about our project. Get your teachers involved, your school administrators, and other concerned parents.
MORE ABOUT THE GAMES:
We propose creating biologically realistic, simulation-based games that are fun and educational for the tablet platform. All games are situated on islands in the Bahamas, which are populated with plants, insect herbivores, spiders, lizards and birds. All of the species within the games move and act realistically based on measured and published behavioral ecological models.
Be an ecologist and discover island ecology! The player’s mission is to capture, measure and mark all of the anole lizards on the island in order to look for trends in body size, shape, color, and weight. At first, players must capture lizards by hand, by tracing a circle around the lizard. Be warned: lizards have fantastic eyesight for movement and run away quickly from approaching objects. Once captured, the lizard can be measured and assessed for physical traits. Lizards are squirmy creatures and will try to get away and may even urinate or defecate while being measured, so players must be fast and efficient. Once all the lizards are marked, players will be asked about trends in body sizes. The more correct information is gathered, the more player options will be available for future play – such as obtaining field tools like a lasso or trap for capturing lizards, or changing features of the ecologist’s avatar (which can be seen as a photo image in the upper right-hand corner of the screen).
Hypotheses and Experimentation
Apply what you learned about island ecology to surviving the island. Using the data from the previous experience as an ecologist, players will create hypotheses about the best habitats for lizards. What color should dominate the landscape? How big should the hiding spots be? etc. Players will test these hypotheses as a lizard trying to survive and thrive on the island. Each lizard has a home territory, so the players’ lizard needs to compete with other lizards for the habitat they feel is best suited for survival. Players start as young lizards, but quickly grow as they find food and water. Older lizards are faster, stronger and have better vision for movement. The player will also need to thermo regulate by finding shade and sun spots.
Results and Conclusions
Create a stable ecosystem for your lizard. Now that players understand the necessary parameters for lizard survival, they can populate their island with plants, insects and spiders in order to try to create a stable ecosystem for their lizard. It’s a fine balance between too harsh and too pleasant, since a utopian system will create an overpopulation of lizards and/or attract lizard predators, such as birds.
THE GRANT AND FUNDING GAP:
The National Science Foundation has awarded us the first phase of the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant. This has provided us with seed money to start the design and research part of our project to show that our idea is feasible. These funds will end December 31st. We will be applying for the second phase of funding to finish the project over two years. However, the second phase of funding doesn’t begin until June 1st. This leads to a 6-month gap in funding where we cannot pay our programmer. No programmer = no progress on the game and a loss in momentum by the team and the collaborators. In order to avoid this project stall, we need your help to keep the project going.
HELP US OPEN YOUNG MINDS TO SCIENCE
Risks and challenges
We will need to successfully receive the second phase of funding from NSF in order to complete all three video games and the school package. While we believe that we are in a good position to receive these funds, since we are successfully reaching our milestones, there is always a risk that NSF does not grant us the money. If this happens, we will need to raise more capital from investors or risk shutting down the project.
As is always the case with projects, our timelines are estimates and may be delayed due to unforeseen circumstances. We will provide periodic updates (monthly) after the termination of the Kickstarter in order to keep all of our backers informed and involved during the project.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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