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NAS Awards Grant to Science Game

The GameDesk Institute will be awarded $225,000 to develop its Science in Motion project, an "embodied" game for students.

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WASHINGTON -- As part of its Science & Entertainment Exchange, the National Academy of Sciences today (Nov. 1) announced that the GameDesk Institute will be awarded $225,000 to develop its Science in Motion project, an "embodied" game that provides a learning experience that actively engages students physically and mentally in difficult science topics.

Since 2008, the Academy's Science & Entertainment Exchange program has connected top scientists with screenwriters, directors, and producers to craft engaging storylines rooted in sound science and more accurately portray scientists in film and television. Seeking to expand the program to similarly benefit classroom education, the Exchange held a summit on science, entertainment, and education earlier this year in Beverly Hills, Calif., where leading scientists and engineers met with creative individuals from the movie, television, and gaming industry, as well as dozens of teachers and students, to discuss new ways to use entertainment as a science learning tool.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation sponsored the summit and also provided funding for the new grant, intended to support projects that leverage entertainment media to improve science learning. A committee of experts from science, education, and entertainment, chaired by Paula Apsell, senior executive producer for NOVA and NOVA scienceNOW and director of WGBH's Science Unit, chose GameDesk's Science in Motion project from a pool of many applicants.

"To date there have been very few efforts to create genuine partnerships among the scientific, entertainment, and education communities to develop engaging materials for classroom use," said Ralph J. Cicerone, president, National Academy of Sciences. "Our review panel believes that the Science in Motion project is an excellent opportunity to bring together those communities to build a very unique and powerful educational experience."

"We've been matching scientists and filmmakers to bring better science messaging to the screen," added movie director Jerry Zucker, co-chair of the Exchange. "This year's summit took that concept a step further by reaching out to educators and facilitating collaborations so that the creative force of Hollywood can be applied to the teaching of science."

Science in Motion, which its developers bill as a "textbook of the future," merges high-quality characterization, storytelling, and game design from LucasArts Entertainment with assessment-driven game-learning methodology from GameDesk to create educational geoscience games that involve students' senses, perceptions, and mind-body actions and reactions. For example, as part of a module exploring lithospheric plates, students will control the passage of time and slice through layers of the Earth to see how these shifting plates -- which move only centimeters per year -- can lead to events like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and mountain building. The simulated environment, which enables students to move seamlessly through geographical scales and temporal spaces, and added game mechanics will support students' comprehension of cause-and-effect relationships in the earth sciences.

"This is an ambitious project in terms of both content and collaboration," said GameDesk CEO Lucien Vattel. "The Science & Entertainment Exchange award will help us prove that you can create a highly entertaining and academically respected experience that will be embraced as core instruction."

The Science in Motion project was selected for its creative approach to science education, potential appeal to students as a learning tool, opportunity for broad impact, and genuine viability. The project benefits from the support of multiple collaborators -- the GameDesk Institute, LucasArts Entertainment, University of Southern California, Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, California Science Teachers of the Year, and the New York Hall of Science. Bill Nye "The Science Guy" also is an adviser to the project. The National Academy of Sciences' support will facilitate lasting collaborations among these groups for incorporating the imagination, innovation, talents, and resources of the entertainment community into science education.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, and dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and their use for the public good. An Act of Congress, signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 at the height of the Civil War, calls upon NAS to provide independent advice to the government on matters related to science and technology. For more information, visit or

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, established in 2000, seeks to advance environmental conservation and scientific research around the world and improve the quality of life in the San Francisco Bay Area. The foundation's science program aims to make a significant impact on the development of provocative, transformative scientific research, and increase knowledge in emerging fields. For more information, please visit

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