Miami, Meet Bogotá… Bogotá, Meet Miami.

Bogotá, Colombia is over 1500miles away from Miami on a different continent. But Digital WAVE students had the unique opportunity to interact via virtual worlds with students at the Maloka Science Museum in Colombia. Our two museums have a partnership through SCEnaRioS (Science Centers Engagement and the Rio Summit) and ASTC (Association of Science-Technology Centers) to engage youth in climate change issues and its impacts on water and coastal management. Students met for the first time through Second Life to get to know each other and learn about each other’s environments. Their avatars met at the Digital WAVE island’s campfire, where both the U.S. and Colombian flags fly.

Some funny things happen along with the learning, when you meet across cultures, languages, and distances. Colombian students laughed when Miami’s students asked if they would be affected by rising sea levels or hurricanes as Miami would – Bogotá is in the Andes Mountains, at 8,500 feet above sea level! But Colombian students became very serious when they added that some communities in Colombia are already being affected by climate change. Melting glaciers are causing rivers to flood so badly that livestock are dying and being washed away. Miami students then showed off some of the virtual climate change simulations they are designing. One student even created a virtual dog as his simulation’s mascot – of course everyone wanted to know how to make the avatars pet the dog! Colombian students were also treated to a tour of the Digital WAVE island’s virtual reef, where they saw how climate change causes coral bleaching.

As the project continues, teams will collaborate to create real and virtual world videos to communicate their perspectives on how these issues affect their lives and surroundings. Project results will then be presented at the upcoming Planet Under Pressure conference in London and at the Rio+20 conference in Rio, Brazil, to illustrate the unique contributions science centers can make to help implement United Nations global policies. These students, as well as the rest of us, have a big – even global – project to accomplish.

For more about the Digital WAVE program: http://www.miamisci.org/~digitwave/about/

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