• Science Game Jam
    © California Academy of Sciences
  • Science Game Jam
    © California Academy of Sciences
  • © California Academy of Sciences
    © California Academy of Sciences

SAN FRANCISCO (April 21, 2016) – San Francisco teenagers are putting a meaningful twist on “weekend gaming” in Golden Gate Park. Starting this Saturday, April 23, the California Academy of Sciences will host its second-annual, two-day Science Game Jamin collaboration with partners from the Bay Area gaming community, includingEA,GlassLab Games, and MIND Research Institute. 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’sDigital 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 Associate Director of Youth Engagement. “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.”

The Academy’s 2016 Science Game Jam is a thrilling follow-up to last fall’s Climate Game Jam, a nationwide event organized by a partnership between NOAA, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Smithsonian Institute, the California Academy of Sciences, and several other institutions. Groups of adult developers from the Academy’s 2015 event placed first and fourth in the adult division for innovative games about coral farming and owl conservation.

This week’s Science Game Jam shifts the focus back to youth participants from the San Francisco community. After completing an online application process, 50 teenagers were invited to the Academy’s second-annual Science Game Jam. Upon arrival, teens will break into teams and explore local Bay Area environmental issues of food, water and energy. 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 our complex, interconnected local ecosystems. Teen participants will develop playable digital games, and present their products to museum guests and other youth 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.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.

“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 around the world.”

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 the California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is a renowned scientific and educational institution dedicated to exploring, explaining and sustaining life on Earth. Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it is home to a world-class aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum, as well as innovative programs in scientific research and education—all under one living roof.

About Education at the California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is an innovative leader in efforts to increase scientific and environmental literacy worldwide. Based in San Francisco, the Academy is home to 170 science educators and communicators as well as more than 300 highly trained docents who engage people of all ages—both here in California and around the world—in the scientific concepts and issues that will shape our future. Through intensive partnerships with schools and teachers, innovative programs and exhibits for all ages, engaging online learning and digital media offerings, and immersive science visualization productions, Academy educators increase the public’s understanding and appreciation of the natural world and inspire participants to help sustain the rich diversity of life on Earth.

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