• Academy youth education
  • Academy youth education

SAN FRANCISCO (April 21, 2015)—Local teenagers are redefining “weekend gaming” in Golden Gate Park. On Sunday, April 26, the California Academy of Sciences will host its first Science Game Jam in collaboration with partners from the Bay Area gaming community, including Zynga.org, ROBLOX, and GlassLab. In the professional realm, game jams are gatherings of game developers racing the clock to design innovative games in a short amount of time. By blending science learning with this creative, fast-paced approach to game design, the Academy’s Digital Learning program aims to expose youth to science-rich experiences in an all-new format.

“We’re thrilled to combine the Bay Area’s unparalleled tech know-how with the Academy’s in-house science expertise,” says Katie Levedahl, Academy Assistant Director of Youth Programs. “Game jams are a great way to give young people the space and mentorship they need tell creative science stories. We know teens are buying games—we want to empower them to hop in the driver’s seat and create new, exciting games packed with real science.”

After completing an online application process, 50 teenagers were invited to the Academy’s inaugural Science Game Jam. Upon arrival, teens will break into small groups and explore the fascinating biology behind some of Earth’s largest creatures: whales. Groups are challenged to work together—with support from professional game designers as mentors—to imagine a thrilling, educational game that engages users with the science behind these giants of the deep. Teen participants will develop storyboards about their games, and present their products to the larger group for feedback.

Professional volunteers from the Bay Area’s vibrant gaming industry will work closely with each small group, walking teens through the process of planning and storyboarding to create one immersive, coherent gaming experience.

“The game jam format has huge potential to serve thousands beyond the direct participants,” says Levedahl. “Teens can build stories and create games that might show up in classrooms and online app stores. The Academy’s first event is part of a toolkit model we hope to share with museums around the world.”

Developers from Zynga, a leading social gaming company headquartered in San Francisco, will join employee volunteers from San Mateo-based ROBLOX, a platform for user-generated games, and education gaming specialists from the nonprofit GlassLab, to lend support and give participants a peek into the professional world of game design. These volunteer mentors will encourage teens to push through roadblocks as a team, while helping groups stay hyper-focused on creating engaging science content with wide gaming-appeal.

“Games can be a great entry point for engaging students and enlivening their learning experience across the full range of academic subjects,” said Ken Weber, Executive Director of Zynga.org. “Giving them the ability to create their own games will heighten their excitement and keep them coming back for more.”

A team of volunteers from ROBLOX will help develop a prototype of the most promising game in real time. Following the event, every student team will have the opportunity to further develop, publish, and share their games with a massive audience of players using ROBLOX.

Science Game Jam targets 13 to 18-year-olds at a critical developmental moment when exposure to science—both formally and informally—can create lifelong interest in a variety of fields. The Academy and its partners continue to explore the intersection of youth empowerment, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) learning, and game design.

Academy game jams are an extension of its innovative Digital Learning program, established in 2011. This youth-centric initiative pioneers programs that combine science exploration, digital media, and the power of youth voice. By connecting young people with cutting-edge technology and accessible mentors, the Academy helps support the next generation of science communicators and technology-literate leaders. Participating youth are provided a forum—on the museum floor, in Bay Area communities, and on various online platforms—to share their digital science stories with maximum impact.

About Science Game Jam
Sunday, April 26
Workshop from 9:30 AM-5 PM
The workshop is restricted to teen participants, volunteer mentors, and press.

About the California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is a leading scientific and cultural institution based in San Francisco. It is home to an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum and research and education programs, which engage people of all ages and backgrounds on two of the most important topics of our time: life and its sustainability. Founded in 1853, the Academy's mission is to explore, explain and protect the natural world. Visit www.calacademy.org for more information.

Press Contacts

If you are a journalist and would like to receive Academy press releases please contact press@calacademy.org.

Digital Assets

Hi-res and low-res image downloads are available for editorial use. Contact us at press@calacademy.org to request access.