Thursday, March 17, 2011

Smithsonian and MIT Launching Interactive Science Game for Middle Schoolers

The scientists at the Smithsonian Institute have cooked up a scientific mystery, and they are asking the nation's middle schoolers to solve it.  It is a game, but also serious business: to demonstrate to students in the 11-14 age range that science is not merely memorizing a bunch of facts and figures, but instead involves using scientific clues, tools to make sense of data that at first seems completely random.

The game is called Vanished, and has been developed by the Smithsonian Institute and the Education Arcade (the learning games development center) of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  The game will be played both online and in real life over an 8-week period, as students work together to solve a puzzle related to a fictitious environmental disaster.  Clues will be given online each week, but students will also be encouraged to visit local museums and collect data locally in order to figure out the solution.  The middle schoolers will also be able to interact with working scientists from MIT, the Smithsonian, and other locations to get answers they need as they work towards their solutions.  Ultimately, the investigate includes aspects of many different disciplines, including life sciences, environmental sciences, paleontology, archaeology, geology, anthropology, math, the arts, and language arts.

Those in the Wake County area are fortunate, because the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is one of about 20 institutions that are affiliated with the Smithsonian's efforts.  These means that some of the clues will lead to exhibits or information contained in the museum in Raleigh.  These local clues are to be shared with student teams across the country, creating nationwide cooperation among middle schoolers dedicated to solving the problem.

To sign up for the game, visit the website at  Then stay tuned for April 4, when the first clues will begin to arrive in email inboxes across the country.

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