Science, Muppet-Style

For the past two weeks, Sesame Street viewers across the country have been treated to a morning science lesson with NYSCI and a loveable muppet named Murray Monster. Murray, with help from a Spanish-speaking lamb called Ovejita, cheered on as NYSCI Science Instructor Adiel Fernandez gave short lessons that encourage kids to learn science through design and think like engineers. Adiel is an educator with NYSCI’s Sara Lee Schupf Family Center for Play, Science, and Technology Learning (SciPlay), which created the science lessons. 

The Sesame Street episodes, filmed in NYSCI’s Rocket Park Mini Golf, Rocket Park, and Science Playground, ran locally on PBS stations in New York and New Jersey, as well as in Nebraska, Montana, West Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Arizona and California.

See if you can spot NYSCI next week on Sesame Street on WNET Thirteen (October 20 at 10 am and October 21 at 7 am), WLIW21 (October 24 at 9 am), and NJTV (October 20 at 11 am).

SciPlay & Joan Ganz Cooney Center @ Sesame Workshop ebook study sign-up

SciPlay is teaming up with the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop for a research study on how families with children ages 3 – 5 choose books to read together. If you’re interested in participating, please fill out the survey at the link below, and then come out to the New York Hall of Science on August 25 or 26!

Children will receive a small Sesame Street gift for participating:
What can animated creatures teach us about genomics? NYSCI aims to find out.

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New York Hall of Science Teaches Genetics with Video Games By Christie Rizk on Nov 04, 2012 What can animated creatures teach students about genomics and related scientific concepts? Researchers at the New York Hall of Science’s Sara Lee Schupf Family Center for Play, Science, and Technology Learning (SciPlay for short) aim to find out. In collaboration with scientists at Michigan State University, developers at the Concord Consortium, and designers at Parsons The New School for Design, they’re creating a video game to boost students’ enthusiasm for and understanding of genetics.

GeniGames teaches both research and applied science, says SciPlay Director David Kanter. Four versions of the game will be used in different New York City high school science classes this winter, while SciPlay researchers track which elements contribute to students’ understanding of scientific concepts. “We’re measuring learning, but we’re also measuring a lot of different affective dimensions of learning like motivation, engagement, and emotional state,” Kanter says. “As opposed to taking it for granted that games are great and that everything should be gamified, we’re trying to understand what the value is [and] for whom.”

In GeniGames’ first version, students design and breed their perfect pet lizard as they learn about concepts like meiosis and genetic inheritance. The second version adds a bit of narrative backstory to the game and replaces lizards with dragons, using the same scientific curriculum. The third adds an element of competition by asking students to design dragons for specific tasks such as racing or catching fish. And the fourth adds the element of community: SciPlay will host a competitive tournament among participating classrooms. Underlying the game are sound genetic concepts based on the known genomes of various animals, so it is realistic, Kanter says.

The study is set to end in August 2014. “We have a hypothesis that not all of these gaming elements are across-the-board great for all kids, so we will be looking into our data at the level of individual students to figure out for whom does narrative really work,” Kanter says. Data gathered in the high schools could also help SciPlay and its collaborators to eventually design games for younger children, he adds.

Christie Rizk is a reporter and editor based in New York. She was most recently an assistant editor for GenomeWeb’s Genome Technology magazine, and has worked as a reporter, editor, and producer at Reuters, Thomson Financial, and The Brooklyn Paper.