Towering dinosaur skeletons illuminated by blue lights stretch towards the ceiling on either side of lime green polka dot bean bags that make rows of semicircles on the floor. Groups of smiling safari animals and cute dinosaur characters circle the front entrance of New York’s American Museum of Natural History. Mock stone podiums fitted with tablets line the walls and guests crowd around large HD screens as they explore a world of learning within. It’s Thursday's North American launch of Kuato Studios' Dino Tales and Safari Tales, and actress Uma Thurman is the host.
Education World was fortunate enough to be at the launch and get up close and personal with dino and game learning devotees. On tablets at the museum were games allowing children to enter rich worlds ready for exploration. Dino Tales users can take control of animals in treasure hunts while developing sentences around the action taking place within the players adventure. In-game prompts lead to fun action objectives, and after completion, users get interesting questions that reveal fun facts about fossils, species of animals, and more. The game gives more than visually rich worlds and an engaging, user-friendly interface. This game encourages deep learning objectives via fun.
“It’s really cool,” said Cloey Niz, a 5-year-old dinosaur enthusiast, saying that she hadn’t seen the characters before.
The most exciting part of the game, she said, were the questions that popped up every now and then after her character completed an action.
“I like [the questions]. I feel like I’m learning about animals I like, and it’s fun.”
With a variety of games encompassed within the apps, players can dig for fossils, ask Darwin the dinosaur fact questions, and learn interesting and enriching facts about the animals they love. As they adventure through this world, which is both captivating and rich on its own, players craft their own story that’s recorded by the app into a storybook that can be shared.
“It’s good. I like reaching goals and I like to walk everywhere,” said Cooper, a 6-year-old in attendance with his father, without looking away from the scene or breaking his concentration.
Well over 200 guests were at the launch event. Laverne Cox and Dascha Polanco of the popular Netflix show “Orange Is The New Black” were in attendance. Celebrity stylist June Ambrose was also in the audience with her daughter, and actor Josh Lucas dropped in too.
A walking dinosaur, Darwin, traveled around greeting guests.
“If you make something that’s engaging, then you already have a learning environment. It’s just a case of ‘Did you seed it with the correct facts?’…It should all be experience; it should all be learning. It’s a process, not a destination, really,” said Mark Horneff, managing director of Kuato Studios.
The unique structure of the games brings together elements of storytelling, language skills, including vocabulary, usage and structure, and then meets those skills with biological facts and historical context.
“I think one of the things where I see education games go wrong is they start with a syllabus, or a curriculum, or the Core standards, and then illustrate that. What we do is: we get there, but we draw lines to it,” Horneff said.
So far, he’s been thrilled with the response that the apps have gotten in the U.K., where they’ve been out for a few months.
“The most heartwarming review I’ve seen is when someone told me it’s replaced bedtime story time. So the kid gets to play it for 15 minutes, create a story, and then they read it. So the adoption rate, the engagement: phenomenal. They’re creating stories when they read the story they’ve written themselves,” Horneff said.
Thurman read with natural warmth and captured the attention of every audience member. She had a pacing to her voice that kept spectating children whispering of Stig the dinosaur and his exciting adventures, meeting the fiction with facts about the creatures occupying the story's space. As Thurman read, animations from the app glare behind her.
After a couple of stories, she’s done, and the room is bursting with enthusiasm.
“Having three children of my own, literacy is of the utmost importance to me in their education. I have seen just how much technology is progressing in this area and how it is becoming more and more important in their everyday lives,” Thurman said. “I am really impressed by the work that Kuato Studios is doing. They are making innovative and exciting games that kids want to play and that I, as a parent, want them to play too. I am so happy to support and help spread this message in raising awareness for how technology can play a valuable role in the future of our children’s education”
Dino Tales and Safari Tales are available on iOS and Android platforms. For more information, click here.
Article by Jason Papallo, Education World Social Media Editor
Copyright © 2015 Education World