Games for Change did a nice profile of the "Virtual World Institute" at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, a project to "educate students about the past while introducing them to being hands-on in the scientific process."
A collaboration among AMNH, Science House, and Immersiv, the Virtual World Institute brought together a group of middle schoolers for a two-week summer camp where students got to go on a real life fossil hunt in the area, use the museum's resources to research the fossils that were found, and then use a 3D modelling tool to create a simulation of what the live animal might have looked like. As a final step, the students "resurrected" their animals and placed them in the virtual world of Blue Mars.
It looks like it was a fun experience for the youth that participated, incorporating real life activities and trips, actual scientific research and methodology, and digital media creation. So similar in many ways to the "I Dig Science" virtual fossil digs, but using different tools and worlds.
For the AMNH project, the students used the 3D modeling tool Scultris, a free, more user-friendly version of the ZBrush modeling system by Pixologic. I'm curious how easy it was for the kids to pick upm and what their final models look like. From the curriculum, it looks like they only had a few hours to learn Sculptris and make their models.
This is the first educational project I have heard of that used Blue Mars in this way. Other educational projects have focused on college age students. So I would love to know the details about what it was like to work with this particular virtual environment.
Read more details about the Virtual World Institute over on ScienceHouse.com.