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N.Y. Hall of Science, Ackerman play games

Youngsters Keiyara Sealy (l.-r.), Persia Hughes and Alasia Washington, all of Queens Village, enjoy an exhibit at the New York Hall of Science this past summer.
TimesLedger Newspapers

You never learned like this by playing Chutes and Ladders.

U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) announced last week he had secured nearly $3 million worth of federal education funds for the New York Hall of Science, which plans to develop a program that will use technology — such as a sensor-laden slide — to teach students the science behind their playground play as they play.

SciGames, as the program is called, will use technology to provide an interactive learning experience for the approximately 8,000 eighth-grade students the hall, located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, intends to reach in their schools over the next five years.

One example of a SciGame is a common playground slide affixed with sensors that students can use to measure how potential energy at the top of the slide is transformed into thermal energy from friction at the bottom of the slide.

Instead of simply racing down the slide, students experiment with different variables, such as the material they slide on, and are rewarded for exploring science concepts, such as the conservation of energy. Teachers will attend workshops at the hall and will receive kits so they can set the SciGame up at their school.

A spokeswoman for the Hall of Science said five teachers will pilot the program this fall.

The two other SciGames the hall plans to develop and test use games with scooter carts and a ball and mallets to focus on Newton’s laws of motion.

The program is designed to carry the learning experience from the playground to the classroom. Each SciGame logs the individual student’s experimental data while he plays and incorporates it into a digital application he can continue to play back in the science classroom.

There, the student can review and analyze what happened during the playground game to help her develop a formal understanding of the science behind her recreation.

“We’re excited to explore this new idea about bridging informal and formal science learning experiences to improve New York City students’ understanding of and interest in science,” said David Kanter, director of the New York Hall of Science’s Sara Lee Schupf Family Center for Play, Science, and Technology Learning and the principal investigator on the award.

The funding for the program was allocated through the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation Fund of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The program was established to fund educational organizations that improve student achievement by expanding and investing in innovative teaching practices.

“The New York Hall of Science does an exceptional job of educating our children in science and these funds will be a major boost towards fulfilling that critical mission,” Ackerman said. “I’m pleased to deliver the great news about this money and look forward to thousands of kids learning more about science through this outstanding and innovative program.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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