The New York Hall of Science's new Connected Worlds exhibit is a series of six interactive ecosystems that spreads across the walls of its Great Hall, united by a 3000 square foot interactive floor.
Kids can use their hands to plant seeds, or to move real logs to divert water and notice the effects on the various environments. Healthy ecosystems produce creatures that migrate among the different worlds.
It's intended to teach young folks about how systems work, especially in the contest of ecology and sustainability. Prolific game designer and artist Zach Gage (we last spoke to him about fortunetelling apps and accidental clones, but he does all kinds of things) consulted on the project:
"My biggest pushes were for ensuring that the takeaways for children were experiential (to be unpacked later with educators/family members/friends) rather than a set of point-by-point facts or statistics," he writes. "I strongly believe that part of the power of games is that they can convey experiences, not just lessons, and that experiences can be key in teaching certain topics that are too complex to ever truely understand—in this case, systems thinking."
As a kid I remember very little about my class trips to museums besides the worksheets, where we had to study exhibits and then write down what they told us about how the world works. Strangely I can't remember anything specific that I learned—just that I sat for a while copying down a diagram of a flower by hand, more interested in its infrastructure than in any fact the image could convey.
Learn more about the Connected Worlds project here, or see it for yourself at the New York Hall of Science, where it'll be housed for the next 5-10 years!