The I Dig Tanzania summer camp participants finished the virtual portion of their program today. Here's a picture of our New York IDT participants posing with Mark Kingdon, the CEO of Linden Lab, the creators of Second Life.
A dedicated group of 16 teens in Chicago and New York completed a week-long set of activities in Second Life, learning about paleontology, evolution, careers in science, Tanzanian culture and arts, and geography. Along the way, they also gained a number of valuable technical skills in Second Life, from virtual building to customizing their avatar to photography. It's been a heady and wild ride for all of us involved at Global Kids, the Field Museum in Chicago, and the researchers in Tanzania working together!
Here's a quick recap of the last day of the program, which started with hip hop and ended with virtual dancing...
The day began with -- surprise -- Second Life being down for maintenance. Shawna, Dominique, myself and our counterparts at the Field Museum in Chicago quickly devised a back-up lesson that didn't require Second Life. It involved giving the teens sets of questions to answer about Tanzanian culture and letting them view various YouTube videos to learn more. Once Second Life came back up later in the morning, we had the teens meet in their teams and collaborate on their answers before blogging about it later.
Then we got a real treat as a Tanzanian hip-hop artist came by named Eric. He explained various aspects of Tanzanian and Maasai culture that might have been confusing for the kids, such as the role of hip-hop in Africa versus hip-hop in America. Then he played a djemba drum provided by Dominique, then led us in a call-and-response song. It was so sweet.
We took a lunch break and then came back to talk again with the researchers in Tanzania, who at this point had returned from the field and were in Dar Es Salaam preparing their fossils to be shipped back to the States. I'm afraid that the satellite phone connection was so bad that the kids didn't get much out of this conversation. It's some solace to know that they will get to meet in person several of the research team when they all go to the Field Museum at the end of July.
The final, quite difficult task we assigned to the teens drew upon all their skills as builders, writers, photographers, online researchers, and collaborators. The task was to pull together all of the information that they had gathered at this point about their virtual fossil and present it as a museum exhibit with a diorama, a notecard of information, and a poster explaining their research process. The result was very impressive, showing how much they had learned and how well they worked together.
This is a picture of the virtual exhibit created by one team that really looks like it could be in a museum, complete with benches to sit on in front.
To work on their presentations skills, we had each team elect someone to speak on the team's behalf about their exhibit and what they had learned in the process. It was great hearing their voices, since for the entire program we had restricted them to just using text chat.
Finally, after the final exhibit was presented, it was time to party! We brought all of the teens to a picturesque pond area, where they had been fishing a couple of days ago, and set out a dance floor with pre-set dance animations. I threw on some African music, Barry handed out glow sticks, people set the environment to midnight, and the dance party was on!
To close the program, we brought everyone back to the campfire, took a group picture, and said our thank yous and "see you laters" to all the participants. Several of our New York teens seemed genuinely disappointed that they wouldn't be in Second Life after today, which was surprising to me given all the difficulties and frustrations they had encountered over the past five days. But I guess they were having a much better time than I had originally thought.
Here's a picture of most of our teens assembled together in Second Life in front of the virtual exhibits that they created together. Everyone really rose to the occasion, from my fellow GK staffers Dominique, Shawna and Joyce, to our SL builder Midnight Sun / Amulius Lioncourt, our counterparts in the Field Museum Johanna, Andy, Krystal, Katie, Audrey and Elizabeth, the Tanzanian research team Ken, Bill, Christian, Seb, Linda and Roger, and our 16 teens from Chicago and New York who all did amazing work.
Now off for some much needed rest before the long weekend! Whew!