Science Center exhibit ‘rolls the dice’ on race

Alex Cory

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the Science Center of Iowa are partnering up to create an event Thursday called “Roll of the Dice: From Neurons to Community,” which is meant to take on the topic of race in Iowa.

“Roll of the Dice” is a hands-on game activity meant to spark discussion and explore the concept of race and how it relates to Iowans. As part of the Science Center of Iowa’s celebration of African-American History Month, “Roll of the Dice” seeks to investigate race and human variation.

The event will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Science Center of Iowa in Des Moines.

“It came from a request from different communities to talk about race, and to talk about race in a way that is really emotionally charged and looking at the science,” said John-Paul Chaisson-Cárdenas, who facilitates the event.

The idea is to have participants play an interactive game that helps teach them about all of the complicated facets of race.

“It’s a simulation, so quite literally we have taken general national statistics and turned them into probability, and people are actually rolling out a family with 10-sided dice,” Chaisson-Cárdenas said.

Participants then learn about the neuroscience of race and how that goes on to affect things from individual biases to organizational and policy biases, he said.

“Roll of the Dice” is part of a day-long program and is partnered with an exhibit called “Race: Are We So Different.”

“Race: Are We So Different” is a traveling exhibit that was originally produced by the American Anthropological Association in collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota.

“The race exhibit has a story of three main themes; the science of human variation, the history of race and racism in the United States and race in our culture,” said Patrick Rice, director of learning experiences at the Science Center of Iowa.

“It sounds interesting that they’re going to explore such a serious and complicated topic through a game,” said Sam Ellis, junior in computer engineering.

The “Roll of the Dice” event is open to the general public, but requires online registration and a $25 fee before attendance.