A mystery is brewing at the Smithsonian Institution and the scientists there need the help of youth ages 10 ½ to 14 to solve it. This challenge provides a grand opportunity to play an online science-fiction interactive mystery game, VANISHED, that leads to discovering the truth about an environmental disaster on Planet Earth. Do you know a middle-school student who would like to help unlock the true secrets of this catastrophe–before it’s too late? If so urge them to join the game! They will use real scientific methods, confer with experts, and search for clues both online and in their community to unravel the game’s secrets.
Over the course of eight weeks, from April 4th- May 31st, youth across the United States race to solve puzzles and other online challenges and visit museums and collect samples from their neighborhoods to help unlock the secrets of the game. As the weeks progress, VANISHED players become scientific investigators taking part in a wide variety of thought-provoking, collaborative and engaging activities both on and offline. Participants will have the opportunity to communicate directly with Smithsonian scientists and Arizona State Museum archaeologists via videoconferences and online forums. During these sessions, players will tap into the experts’ knowledge of key subject matters that have a major impact on cracking the mystery. During their quest, players will share information and insights with other players during online discussions that are moderated by Massachusetts Institute of Technology students.
To aide students in deciphering the clues, ASM archaeologists Dr. Barnet Pavao-Zuckerman and Dr. James Watson will answer questions via an on-line forum from May 10-16. They will share their understanding of the meaning of items found at archaeological sites and what these items can tell us about how past societies lived and the stresses they encountered.
Dr. Watson is an Assistant Curator of Bioarchaeology at ASM and an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arizona’s School of Anthropology. His research examines health and disease in prehistoric populations through their skeletal remains. He is specifically interested in understanding prehistoric human adaptations in desert ecosystems and the role local resources play in the adoption of agriculture and their impact on health.
Dr. Pavao-Zuckerman is an Associate Curator of Zooarchaeology at ASM and an Associate Professor at UA’s School of Anthropology. She is currently researching the colonial-period experiences of Native Americans in southeastern and southwestern North America, and the impact of the introduction of Eurasian domesticated animals and European market economies on indigenous subsistence and economic systems.
Dr. Pavao-Zuckerman will share her reflections about the discussion that occurs during the forum on this blog. So stay tuned! To register for the free VANISHED game, go to vanished.mit.edu to get started on this important mission. Register soon as the game begins on April 4th. We look forward to hearing about your experiences! Please share them via the comment boxes on this blog.
VANISHED was developed and curated by MIT’s Education Arcade and the Smithsonian Institution. The MIT Education Arcade explores games that promote learning through authentic and engaging play. Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum and research complex. Arizona State Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is the oldest and largest anthropology museum in the Southwest (established in 1893).