DNA Ahead Game & More Struts Its Stuff

Editor’s note: this is a guest post from Dr. Semenow on her new educational DNA game that also invokes stem cells. She has the remarkable distinction of having been the first woman who was a science Ph.D. student at Caltech. Stay tuned for my coming interview with her on her experiences in science. Her Kickstarter campaign for the game launches today.

By Dorothy Semenow, Creator of DNA Ahead™

DNA Ahead Game & More™ (the Game) tells the complete amazing story of DNA science and biotechnology. Its content emphasizes the “how” of the science, with pictures leading the way. Ambitiously, it aims to spur non-scientists as well as scientists of all ages and talents not only to understand and apply science findings in their own lives, but also to create science-based products and performances that spread science savvy.

I knew from my work as a psychologist/educator and my experience in the 1960s-70s women’s movement that the Game needed to occupy common ground on which to connect with its users. I took my cue from early childhood learning when play and pictures reveal the world, and chose a board game format featuring picture cards—the equivalent of a map and a picture book, but more flexible.

Fifteen years in the making, the Game blends the major chords of my life—projects, arts and crafts, science, mastery-by-teaching, underdog and creativity boosting; and, throughout, bridging.

The Game Art stars in the Hands-on Picture Science (HOPS) approach used to motivate users to explore the remarkable history and sweeping effects of the DNA revolution—AND communicate what they learn. Indeed, the Game’s effort to activate the inner teacher in all of us is its other key feature. HOPS bridges science to the arts (STEM —> STEAM), and its usability with any group anywhere makes it a worthy supplement to hands-on science lab and field activities for both non-scientists and scientists.

Here’s how it all works, starting with the Game Board. In a way that words alone cannot convey, the Board’s pictorial map depicts the relationships between the early history of genetics unfolding chronologically (in the RIM), the tools that launched and advance both DNA science and the biotech revolution (in the center HUB), and the biotech areas that have resulted (in the 8 HELIXES fanning out from the HUB). The last include Spaces for controversial issues—e.g., labeling of GMOs and stem cell research on human embryos. Quite apart from game play, pictures on Board Spaces invite users to think about their possible meanings, based only on the pictures and their titles.
Female mammoth DNA Ahead

The Game is fun to play and, for each round, you can choose targets that determine its approximate length and the content areas favored. You don’t need to know any science to play, and you don’t need to play to benefit from using the materials. They’re designed for use apart from play by both players and non-players.Let’s say you choose to play the game and have read the Rules in the All-U-Need Booklet and/or watched the How To Play & Navigate Content Video. You’ll roll Dice, move around the Board, land on and claim Spaces, and draw their Claim Cards, all like Monopoly—but with more Move options plus Consequences on frequently drawn  Whoops-Or-Whoopee (WOW) and issues-insights-innovations (iii) Cards, which introduce many more choices and strategic possibilities.

The WOW AND iii Cards also introduce small bites of content, so you can decide what interests you. WOW Cards cover the subculture of the scientist tribe, aka “the human side of science,” (career counselors, take note), while iii Cards focus on just what their name says, as applied to DNA science and biotechnology frontiers.Gene pick

Some WOW and iii Cards in both Decks report on topics you’ll likely find personally relevant—e.g., “Exerciser or Couch Potato in Your Genes?” and “‘Fast Sleep Gene.” Many such Cards carry icons pointing to Claim Cards that flesh out their subjects. And Cards with content by, for, or about groups underrepresented in science carry identifying icons. 

Most important, Consequences lead to Show-&-Tell (S&T) Cards that guide you to apply relevant concepts to your own life and use your talents to create products or performances that express those concepts. The DNA Ahead exhortation is: “Teach—i.e., cogitate/create/circulate/celebrate—to master the science and inspire your audiences to do the same.” 

DNA Ahead is very content-rich as games go. But at heart it is just a little game trying to make a few big waves. To do that, the challenge is to connect with users on their own turfs, to convince them that their creative contributions to spreading knowledge about DNA science and biotechnology can both contribute to the personal sense of purpose we all seek and fill a vital need in the larger world. 

The Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, with its emphasis on community, provides an ideal setting to launch the Game. But that is just the beginning of the real campaign in which future forums and activity invitations on the www.DNAahead.com website will aim to inspire a vibrant team who creates and tests a variety of improved versions, spin-offs, and free-flyers. At age 86, I must scurry to kick off fulfillment of these grand plans. All hands aboard are heartily welcomed!

1 thought on “DNA Ahead Game & More Struts Its Stuff”

  1. Disappointed there’s no mention of unregulated stem cell clinics – it could have been the equivalent of Monopoly’s “Get out of Jail Free” card. Looking forward to this – the lab guys will modify it for sure.

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