Brain Pickings

Phylomon: The Game of Life

Pokemon meets Mother Earth, or what preschoolers have to do with the life of life.

The UN has declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity. And while we’ve seen a number of smart, ambitious scientific and creative efforts inspired by and advocating nature’s bounty, the fact remains that preserving the incredible natural variety of species is in the hands of the future generations. So raising children with a biological sensibility and getting them excited about biodiversity is at the root of any viable effort.

Which is why we love the understatedly brilliant Phylomon project by The Science Creative Quarterly, a wonderful repository for well-written, unconventional scientific literature.

When you have seen one ant, one bird, one tree, you have not seen them all. ~ E. O. Wilson.

Phylomon is a web-based initiative for creating Pokemon-like cards, using real creatures and nature’s own “character design” genius. The project was inspired by a recent study that found young children have the remarkable ability to identify and characterize more than 120 different Pokemon characters, but fail to name more than half of common wildlife species. So Phylomon has set out to broaden children’s natural characters vocabulary, drawing inspiration from the clearly successful model used by “synthetic characters” like Pokemon.

Submissions will be crowdsourced from a variety of creatives, with the scientific community weighing in on the content, game designers invited to brainstorm innovative ways of using the cards, and teachers participating to evaluate the educational merit of the cards.

Best of all, the hope is that this will all occur in a non-commercial-open-access-open-source-because-basically-this-is-good-for-you-your-children-and-your-planet sort of way.

Because Phylomon depends so heavily on the creative community’s contributions, we urge you to submit yours. Use this Flickr pool if you’re a designer or illustrator, this one if you’re a photographer, or this one if you come from the education community.

And if you still have doubts about the momentous importance of biodiversity, take it from Ban Ki-moon, the UNSYG himself — it’s important, alright.

Read up on Phylomon and contribute — why not?

Published January 22, 2010




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