The Missouri “Bootheel” is the southeasternmost part of the state and earns its name because of the resemblance the region bears to the heel of a boot in relation to the rest of the state. Here, in the rural city of Malden, MO, is the Bootheel Youth Museum (BYM). BYM has been on a mission to foster an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and an insatiable curiosity about life for over 30 years. The museum provides unique educational programs and projects for children, adults, and families of all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. No stranger to STEM, BYM’s primary focus is to provide programs and exhibits, in collaboration with schools, colleges, and community organizations, in the fields of math, science, natural resources, human relations, and the arts.
The museum is also a longtime partner of the NISE Network, going all the way back to the “Nano project” and the first educational resources created in 2008! So it should come as no surprise that the museum was among the first to start using their copy of the Moon Adventure Game that was included in the 2020 Explore Science: Earth and Space toolkit part B.
BYM staff did a lot of observation of participants playing the game in order to determine the best way for the museum to use the resource with its visitors. “This game is complex enough to keep adults interested and engaged.” reported one staff member. “This is unusual and refreshing as many of our parents often sit out the activities, or many times do not accompany their children completing an activity.”
Staff described seeing a lot of parent/child interaction. One staff member recalled a high-five between a parent and child as they celebrated completing a challenge successfully. Another parent told their child “Really great job!” as they worked together through a challenge. Phrases like “Neat!” and “Super Cool!” were heard a lot, as well as follow-up questions like “Are those bubbles really air?” which helped inform staff that participants were truly engaged and eager to learn more in the experience.
The game targets family audiences with children grades 4-8, but includes an Early Childhood Adaptation of the Facilitator Narrative Script (included in the Facilitator Narrative Scripts zip file for the game here: https://www.nisenet.org/moonadventuregame). BYM’s audience tends to be younger, but they are thinking about ways they can use the game to target more junior high and high school students. The museum also has a number of ideas for expanding the game, including:
- Incorporating some Alexa and video devices so guests have to contact Mission Control for help remotely.
- Adding some clamp lights with red flashing bulbs for atmosphere.
- Introducing sound effects to enhance the environment.
The museum is also using the game to inform other programs and exhibits on their floor. “The staff is investigating how we might steal some of these ideas for our space station exhibit that is in need of some upcycling.” The BYM Space Station has “everything a little astronaut could want on a trip to the Moon.” The latest addition to the exhibit takes the experience to Mars in a digital game where visitors attempt to land a rover safely on the surface of Mars. In addition to this, the Moon Adventure Game, and four years worth of activities from NISE Network’s Explore Science: Earth and Space toolkits, the museum is also home to the NISE Network’s Sun, Earth, Universe Exhibition as well as the museum’s own “Planet Room” where even more answers to children’s space questions can be found!
Thank you Bootheel Youth Museum for your commitment to bringing this content to your community, for always sharing back your experiences, and for thirteen great years collaborating with the NISE Network!!!
To learn more about Bootheel Youth Museum: https://www.bootheelyouthmuseum.org/index.php
Learn more about the Moon Adventure Game: https://www.nisenet.org/moongame
All photos credit to Bootheel Youth Museum