(Bowling Green, OH) – On Tuesday, April 22nd the Bowling Green State University Virtual Campus in Second Life® held a "Birth/ Earth Day Celebration" in commemoration of the first birthday of the virtual island. The celebration included poetry readings, live DJs, art exhibition openings, and an Earth Day scavenger hunt. During the scavenger hunt, the island was devastated by the effects of global climate change. In the past week, factories emitting black smoke appeared around the island. The sandbox, an open area for building objects, transformed into a paved parking lot full of cars. The island, unable to sustain the polluting effects of these new additions, began to change. The water levels rose and covered 80% of the island flooding the classrooms, Writing Center, Performance Center and Zen Garden. The trees on the island turned brown and died. The grassy areas became an arid wasteland and turned brown. Icebergs carrying stranded polar bears appeared around the island. This catastrophic event complicated the Earth Day scavenger hunt and made it extremely difficult for the participants to find the hidden clues. The scavenger hunt contestants were asked to find 10 items that contained clues on what they could do to prevent global climate change in the real world.
Despite the challenging environment and the difficulty of finding the clues, there emerged a winner. Linda Mandlebaum, BGSU Professor in the Department of Intervention Services, collected the 10 items and answered the five questions correctly. As the participants discovered the various clues on how to save the earth, the environmental damage began to reverse itself. The water receded, the trees turned green, and the parking lot disappeared. Dr. Mandlebaum won 2,000 Linden dollars for being the first to “save the island.” She donated her winnings to Wheelies, a center for disabled residents in Second Life.
The Birth/Earth Day Celebration was simultaneously broadcast on a large projection screen in the lobby of the Bowen Thompson Student Union on the BGSU campus and in Second Life on the virtual campus. Barbara Toth, director of the BGSU Writing Center hosted the poetry readings. The art exhibitions included an installation artwork by Jeff Lovett, a visiting artist from Ohio University, and work by graduate students from the Digital Arts division of the School of Art. The live music was performed by DJ What the Bleep, a TCOM student and VCT student, DJ PsysiX. The event was coordinated by Anthony Fontana and Bonnie Mitchell, both professors in the School of Art, with the help of the Ohio Learning Network Second Life Learning Community members at BGSU and Second Life student assistants.