BioSynC Education & Outreach Publications

September 6, 2012

Audrey Aronowsky, Beth Sanzenbacher (both BioSynC), Johanna Thompson (Field Museum, Education), and Krystal Villanosa (Northwestern University) have recently published two papers in the eBook from the 2012, 2nd Global Conference on Experiential Learning in Virtual Worlds. The eBook, titled Utopia and a Garden Party, is available for free download on the Inter-Disciplinary Press Website.

The first paper, titled "Fusing Virtual, Digital and Real-World Experiences for Science Learning and Empowerment", discusses the unique ways that virtual worlds and digital media, when combined with real-world activities, can create a holistic environment in which youth participants become engaged in the scientific process, learn key concepts, and experience positive affect changes towards science. The second paper, titled "Mixing Virtual, Real-World and Digital Communication Elements to Create Successful Global Teams", discusses how creating virtual global programs that blend digital technologies and real-world activities can mimic a progression of engagement often used to foster real-world teams. The resulting virtual global team, based on a generative culture of content-creation, allowed members in disparate locations to enter into active, social, and meaningful relationships with science mentors, their environment, and each other.

What The Fish?

August 31, 2012

The Field Museum has a new podcast called "What the Fish?"! Available on iTunes and The Field Museum's website.

Every other Friday, the What the Fish? podcast series dives into various topics surrounding the biodiversity of fishes, including discussions on their general biology, ecology, and evolution. Join us as the fish nerds (Leo Smith - Assistant Curator of Fishes, Matthew Davis - Fishes Postdoctoral Fellow, Eric Ahlgren - Consultant and Volunteer for Fishes, and Beth Sanzenbacher - BioSynC Outreach Coordinator) banter, debate, quip, and explore fishy subject matters that range from the ponds and streams near your home to the deepest recesses of the ocean. Please follow us on Twitter and tweet us your fishy questions @FM_WhatTheFish or email us at

I Dig Tanzania 2012

August 31, 2012

This summer, during I Dig Tanzania! 16 teens, 3 Museum facilitators, 2 Museum interns, 4 students from the University of Dar es Salaam, and an international team of paleontologists went on the dig of a lifetime to piece together what happened during the end-Permian mass extinction over 250 million years ago!

From June 25th - July 13th the teens used the creative and participatory 3D environment of Second Life to collaborate with and conduct activities that mimic those of scientists and local community groups; such as hunting for fossils, discussing and interpreting their discoveries, encountering native flora and fauna, and learning about local cultures and politics.

The Field Museum's Assistant Curator of Paleomammalogy, Dr. Ken Angielczyk, and an international team of scientists taught from remote areas in real time using satellite terminals, digital cameras, and laptop computers. The scientists demonstrated paleontological field techniques and provided daily interviews about their research on the end-Permian mass extinction, ancient climates, and vertebrate fossil discoveries.

Virtual and digital experiences were supplemented by real-world activities like behind-the-scenes museum tours where students encountered real fossils and experienced local culture first hand. This cumulated with the teens presenting their knowledge and expertise on the end-Permian mass extinction by walking Museum scientists, staff, and parents through their virtual exhibits that they designed, created and built in Second LIfe.

For more information, photos and videos from I Dig Tanzania please visit the I Dig Science blog.

GLS 8.0

June 21, 2012


Audrey Aronowsky & Beth Sanzenbacher from BioSynC and Johanna Thompson & Krystal Villanosa from the Education Department presented the 8th annual Games, Learning, and Society conference in Madison, WI. The papers they presented included "Sometimes Paper IS Enough: The Case of The Field Museum's Biodiversity Scavenger Hunt", "When simple is not best: issues that arose using WhyReef in the Conservation Connection digital learning program" and "Game of Bones: design decisions and feedback for a vertical slice".

Click here for more information on BioSynC's digital outreach and learning projects.

2012 Members' Night Biodiversity Scavenger Hunt

May 2, 2012

On April 12th and 13th BioSynC ran the Biodiversity Scavenger Hunt during The Field Museum's Annual Members' Night. The hunts were a great success with over 600 families participating.
Members’ Night is an annual event at which The Field Museum gives members a peek behind-the-scenes with access to collections and laboratories throughout the Museum. Directed at families, these scavenger hunts give visitors a learning-based mission when exploring the Museum and the behind-the-scenes areas, and prompts families to further explore the Museum's biodiversity through EOL.
From evaluation of feedback given from 50 families, 80% said that the hunts helped them to learn something new and 64% said that the hunts helped them to navigate the museum and Members' Night.
Select quotes obtained from the feedback include:
"Yes it helped us learn new things, and it lead us through as well as engage in conversation with staff (staff was super fun to talk to)."
"Yes, I learned a lot, saw new animals. I don't think about plants much and this helped me to do that."
"Learned a lot and went to new places, saw things I would not have stopped on my own. A great way to get my kids around and actually learn something."
"Helps me to focus my time and route through the behind-the-scenes."
"Learnt that mushrooms are decomposers. This was my first time to visit the animal halls and older halls. I didn't go to the animals halls in the past, because it would upset me to see all the dead animals, but I learned so many new things and what animals are endangered. This was fun!"

Experiential Learning in Virtual Worlds

March 22, 2012

Audrey Aronowsky (BioSynC), Beth Sanzenbacher (BioSynC) and Johanna Thompson (Education) attended the 2nd Global Conference for Experiential Learning in Virtual Worlds in Prague, Czech Republic from March 12th - 14th. Virtual worlds are revolutionizing learning and interest in using virtual worlds for education has increased dramatically in recent years. This conference brought together educators, researchers, students, independent scholars, and facilitators from around the world to increase understanding of experiential learning in virtual worlds, to examine formal and informal learning in such worlds, and to critique both their essential characteristics and future possibilities.

Audrey, Beth and Johanna presented two papers during the conference, "Mixing Virtual, Real-World, & Digital Communication Elements to Create Successful Global Teams" and "Fusing Virtual, Digital, and Real World Experiences for Science Learning and Empowerment". Both of these papers will be published in the Conference ebook which is scheduled to be released in the Autumn of 2012.

Synthesis Center Education and Outreach Meeting

February 29, 2012

Beth Sanzenbacher attended the Synthesis Center Education and Outreach Meeting on February 23rd and 24th at NIMBioS in Knoxville, TN. Education and Outreach coordinators and specialists from 12 synthesis centers and educational organizations came together to discuss best practices and challenges in delivering educational programs to K-12, undergraduate and graduate students, and connecting the public to active research and science.

Synthesis centers and educational organizations in attendance: BioSynC, NIMBioS, SESYNC, CURENT, MSRI, MBI, SAMSI, NEON, NESCent, NCEAS, Hands On, and Animal Diversity Web.

Joshua Drew on Naked Oceans

December 16, 2011

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Joshua Drew, was featured in the Naked Oceans podcast for their "Critter of the Month" segment. He answered the question, "If you were a marine critter, which one you’d be, and why". You can listen to it here.

Josh Drew on the Radio and Interns

December 9, 2011

Last week, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Joshua Drew was interviewed on WNYU, which aired on December 6th. The interview focused on community based conservation and the benefits of working with local communities in doing conservation research. You can listen to ithere.

Joshua Drew Guest Lecture

December 4, 2011

Last week, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Joshua Drew, went to the Latin School of Chicago to give a lecture to the AP biology class on molecular systematics and their applications for conservation.

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