Today was the second day of the " I Dig Tanzania" intensive summer camp that Global Kids is running with the Field Museum in Chicago. Today our intrepid groups of 16 teens in New York and Chi-town had a number of challenging tasks that we set out for them to make progress on their virtual fossil dig. You can read their own impressions of the day from their blog posts on Holymeatballs.org.
Here’s my quick recap of the highlights…
The day began with more singing and language practice in Swahili, which the kids seemed to like. Dominique did a great job of getting everyone pumped for the day. Or maybe it was the fresh fruit and baguettes that he brought for everyone.
The most exciting part of the day was the actual fossil digging. To accomplish this, we had expert builder Amulius Lioncourt (aka Midnight Sun on the Teen Grid) create a fairly complicated set of tools for unearthing the fossils that the teens had to wear on their avatars to get to the fossils. Not only did the teens have to work together to cover the large area of their dig sites, they had to figure out the proper order of tools to use to not damage the fossils.
After finding a set of fossils, the teens got another chance to interact with the team of real life fossil hunters finishing their dig in Tanzania (hence the name.) The kids asked a number of really great questions, from how the scientists chose their tools to how many pieces of fossil do they need to find to identify a particular animal. After collecting a large set of questions, I talked to several of the researchers over Skype, which we streamed into Second Life so the teens could listen in.
Then the teens returned to the task of preparing the virtual fossils that they found. To do this, we showed them a video of how fossils are "stabilized" by paleontologists with a glue-like solution so that they can be transported safely.
Then the teens had to mix their own stabilizing solution using several possible ingredients set out on a work table. If they chose the right combination of ingredients, they were given a brush to treat their virtual fossils.
This is probably sounding pretty complicated at this point, but the kids really seemed to enjoy the tasks. And they were rewarded with shiny white "stabilized" fossils instead of the dingey brown ones that they had unearthed.
One of the toughest tasks of the day was learning how scientists classify the various forms of life using phylogenic charts — maps of the evolutionary path of various creatures. The teens had to learn what a "synapsid" class of animal is, and create a sign describing a particular synapsid. Although this was quite a challenge for a number of our teens, they worked very hard on their task and produced some neat signs.
To close the day, we did a fun fishing exercise to teach them about Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa that borders Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. The kids got to pick up virtual fishing rods and "go fish" in a lake that Amulius set up for them. Various kinds of fish, from tilapia to pike to Nile perch were caught by the teens in various quantities, to show how certain species have come to dominate the lake due to the introduction of non-indigenous species.
Such a rich and amazing day! Big kudos to my colleagues Shawna and Dominique for being such great educators — particularly Shawna who soldiered through today despite having a nasty cold. And the Field Museum staff Johanna, Krystal, Kate, Andy and the rest were awesome today. And thanks to the Global Kids staff for being supportive and understanding as we took over the entire kitchen area of the office today.
Only two more days of camp left!