SMWC uses grant to help local museum educate kids about bees

June 19th, 2012 | SMWC

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) has recently been awarded a $15,000 Empowerment Grant from the Motorola Mobility Foundation, for an innovative internship entitled Mobile Museum Developers Using Gamification and Crowdsourcing.  For this virtual, multidisciplinary internship, both online and campus students will work together to create a brand new bee exhibit for the not-for-profit Terre Haute Children’s Museum.

The basis of the entire exhibit is a proven effective, unique concept called gamification, which Jennie Mitchell, Ph.D., project director and professor of business at SMWC, described simply as “creating virtual games with fictional characters that take kids on an educational journey.”  Harnessing this breakthrough idea, students in this internship will use Lectora Inspire software to create a museum exhibit that young children can manipulate through large touch screens provided by the College, mobile platforms, or on their own mobile devices.  Children will also be able to download interactive games related to bees and take the information home on their mobile devices, or access it later from the museum’s website.   

By teaching these young children in a fun, interactive way, this new exhibit will show kids that they really can understand science.  “The key is that the audience is young (neo-millenials), and will love the mediated immersion that gamification allows,” Mitchell said.  On a larger scale, Mitchell believes that the use of gamification will help develop young children’s interests in the STEM fields: science, technology, education, and mathematics.  As a result, children will learn early on how to be innovators and leaders. 

Robert Jean, Ph.D., an SMWC assistant professor of ecology and expert on bees, and Sonja Frantz, Ph.D., professor of education and SMWC education department chair, will combine disciplines to help students with the exhibit’s content.  “The idea is to use experts we already have, or experts in other schools—content experts.  Then, our students create it for a young audience,” said Mitchell.

Through a cutting-edge concept called crowdsourcing, the content of this exhibit will be shared with a 280-member museum consortium, which will provide feedback and evaluate the project.  The exhibit will also be made available, through the Association of Science-Technology Centers, to individuals and K-12 classes nationwide, and will adhere to educational standards for use in K-12 classes nationwide.  

“It is a wonderful opportunity for our students to serve the needs of local children, and children around the country,” said D.J Wasmer, Ph.D., professor of business and SMWC business department chair. 

The grant will go towards the large touch screens for the Terre Haute Children’s Museum, iPads for SMWC students involved in the internship, to learn the software and develop the exhibit, and honorariums for various content and consortium experts. 

“There is a Chinese Proverb,” shared Lynn Hughes, executive director of the museum, “that states, ‘I hear and I forget, I see and I remember.  I do and I understand.’  The interactive features of this new exhibit will help children retain and comprehend information about the bees and their habits.”

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