Can the virtual world SL breedable pets such as Meeroos and breedable plants such as Sibotanicals provide some opportunities to learn about biological and botanical genetics? The breedables are an amusing addition to the virtual setting, as the scripting progresses, the concepts of DNA and genetic code have a potential for instruction.
According to a Meeroo blog, these virtual creatures “… have genetic roots that have the potential to reach back centuries into Meeroo DNA…. the variance of that genetic pool is vast, meaning a single Meeroo will almost never have a genetic clone.”
A friend in Second Life, who happens to have a background in biology, has “bred” some dragons, more fun than fruit-flies and possibly as instructional. The dragons have variations in scale color, eye color, wing style and some even have two heads.
I’m told that the scripting and variables in some breedables is more random than in others, with a little development with a teaching objective in mind, potential for learning is solid.
The educators who run Genome Island on Second Life have developed an entire island where students and interested individuals can study genetics. The island includes a location to explore inheritance in cats, bunnies, and sweet peas. Thought the animals and flowers are not quite as artistically developed as the made for fun Meeroos and other pet animals, the genetic concepts are clearly demonstrated.
Genome island includes models and interactive activities for inheritance patterns, molecular genetics, human genetics, bacterial and Drosophila genetics, population genetics and a mix of exhibits with animal models, and a Garden of Prokaryote Genomes.