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PBD Kids is launching “Lifeboat to Mars,” a new interactive game on PBSiIDSGO.org

Science education just got even more exciting with the launch of LIFEBOAT TO MARS, a fun, new, interactive educational game on PBSKIDSGO.org. Designed by Red Hill Studios and PBS KIDS GO! in close collaboration with leading educational researchers and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the game follows a unique “staircase” design that merges an educational sequence with more than 40 challenging game levels, eventually leading to the opportunity for kids to “mod,” or create, their own version of the game to share with others. As players work to rebuild a virtual ecosystem in outer space, they learn standards-based biology concepts. LIFEBOAT TO MARS is at PBSKIDSGO.org/lifeboat.

“LIFEBOAT TO MARS is the latest in a series of innovative Web sites and services we’ve launched in the past year that have been smash hits with kids, including the PBS KIDS GO! and PBS KIDS video players,” said Jason Seiken, PBS SVP, Interactive. “LIFEBOAT TO MARS is unique in that it will help guide children through biology concepts, but it will also help further develop their own scientific thought processes by encouraging them to master levels of the game and then create their own version to challenge others.”

“Videogames are enticing because they’re always challenging,” says Bob Hone, Creative Director of Red Hill Studios. “We’ve designed these educational games so they hit the same sweet spot — challenging enough to be engaging, but not so hard that they are frustrating. This encourages kids to keep playing harder and harder levels — learning new biology concepts as they go.”

LIFEBOAT TO MARS is set in the future — September 15, 2041. Mars Lifeboat #43 — a supply ship carrying experimental DNA to colonies on Mars — suffers a devastating explosion on its way to the red planet. The microbe population is wiped out, plants are wilting and the few animals left are starving.

Kids are challenged to rebuild the ecosystem in time to save the Lifeboat mission. Once they master the first six levels of games, kids have the opportunity to be in the driver’s seat and modify (“mod”) the game by creating their own unique versions of games. After selecting playful names for their creations, kids can upload their games for other kids to play and rate. “The Modding Zone” will support an evolving community of kids and ‘modders’ challenging each other to build the most popular new game levels. The special ‘modding’ tools let kids experiment with different options and approaches,” says Hone. “It helps them think like scientists and designers. Learning the science embedded in the games will help them create better games. In the process, the kids will also develop the 21st-century skills of designing and manipulating media.”

With programs including SID THE SCIENCE KID, CURIOUS GEORGE, CYBERCHASE, DINOSAUR TRAIN and the fall 2010 premiere of THE CAT IN THE HAT KNOWS A LOT ABOUT THAT!, and Web properties such as EEKOWORLD, MEET THE GREENS and LIFEBOAT TO MARS, PBS is providing more opportunities for children to further develop an interest in and appreciation for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). As a critical area of development, PBS is strengthening its offerings around this curriculum area to invite children to explore natural and life sciences — both personally and globally. PBS Parents (PBSPARENTS.org) and PBS Teachers (PBSTEACHERS.org) invite parents and teachers to partner in this learning journey and find developmentally appropriate science learning tools and resources based on a child’s age or grade level. At a White House event in January, 2010, PBS and local PBS stations announced the annual PBS Teachers Innovation Challenge (pbs.org/teachers/innovators/) to honor and celebrate talented teachers and to showcase best practices in support of the growth and advancement of the teaching profession. The National Science Teachers Association is supporting the Challenge by encouraging participation of science teachers at every level of school and will recognize innovative science, technology, engineering and math educators among the 50 Challenge winners who will be announced this spring.

About Red Hill Studios

Red Hill Studios is a leading developer of innovative educational games and software. It is also conducting pioneering research on the use of gaming design approaches for education and health. Prior to this collaboration with PBS on LIFEBOAT TO MARS, it partnered with Twin Cities Public Television and PBSKids to create the successful Dragonfly TV games that have been played more than 20 million times since 2006. For additional info, visit the Web site at http://www.redhillstudios.com/.

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