DiR Week 2: Science Learning and Connected Exhibits @ NYSCI

Left to right: Yuliya, Kumari, Leah, Samantha, & Dr. Holford

Exhibits + Games + Venom + Ira Flatow @Science Friday = An amazing week two as Designers-in-Residence at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI)! In a whirlwind day, Explainers heard from marine biochemist Mandë Holford, cognitive psychologist Lindsay Portnoy, played learning games, continued to map the museum, and ended the day with a prototype of our very first co-created game.

The Explainers started their day learning about the extreme creatures of nature that inspired the work of marine biochemist and Killer Snails Chief Science Officer, Mandë Holford. Watching a  video of the cone snails hunting elicited a slew of inquiries from the Explainers: How were these creatures discovered? Do all cone snails hunt in the same way? Can they hurt humans? Are scientists trying to make medicines that numb pain?

With more questions than answers, Dr. Holford explained how different cone snails make different venom cocktails and characterization of the peptides in the venom cocktails are what scientists are using to create palliative treatments like ziconotide (Prialt) and a newly discovered recently patented peptide by the Holford lab. Explainers were eager to learn more about how these deadly snail assassins can create an incredible mashup between biology and chemistry fueling Holford’s scientific inquiry.

The discussion turned into a series of eager inquiries as Dr. Holford explained how venoms vary from poisons: Venom is transmitted when you are bitten, whereas poisons are transmitted when you take a bite of a deadly creature. For example, the cone snails use a radular tooth to harpoon venom into their prey the prey is bitten. In contrast, a newt’s poison is ingested by an unfortunate predator like this frog who takes a bite of the rough-skinned newt despite the newt’s attempt to warn predators with his red underbelly. After launching us into a fun game of “Bite or Bitten?” Holford left to share this new way of explaining venom versus poison with NPR’s Ira Flatow on this week’s episode of Science Friday.

Concept mapping the museum

Last week, the Explainers and the Killer Snails team identified different ways exhibits from Sports to Connected Worlds work to engage visitors. The Explainers noticed crossovers in the content found in various exhibits such as the similar landscapes in Search for Life to that of the Connected Worlds. Revisiting the content in our map this week launched the group into a discussion about how the physics in the Sports exhibit is deeply connected to the content in Mathematica. Together, we revised and honed our huge concept map and headed to lunch with our cognitive wheels still turning.

From left to right: Kumari, Yuliya, Leah, and Samantha played a game of Slapzi

After lunch, team KS shared some favorite games with the Explainers including our latest game Biome Builder. After playing a few different games Explainers launched into a lively conversation with Dr. Portnoy about how games are a perfect canvas for learning. Together we explored how the game mechanics, or ways in which players interact with a game, can help teach content. For instance, the climate change card in Biome Builder forces players to move their hand of cards to the player on their left, demonstrating the forced migration as a result of a change in climate.

The NYSCI Explainers playing Biome Builder

Inspired by mapping interdisciplinary science across the museum and game play, team KS and the NYSCI Explainers had a eureka moment and launched into a fast and furious game design experiment. Weaving together the many exhibits shed light on new ways to show the interconnectedness to visitors. For the rest of the afternoon we worked together to co-create and play the first prototype of a fast-paced and hilarious game connecting the myriad exhibits at NYSCI.

The Explainers prototyping a NYSCI game

By the end of the day the Explainers were uber proud of their incredible work translating science and learning into a prototype for a new game. Stay tuned to see how our draft game plays out in week three when Killer Snails designer Noelle Posadas and developer Christopher Pollati work with Explainers to bring our new science game to life!