Published November 12, 2020
A video game version of “Sofia Learns About Research,” the children’s activity and coloring book co-authored by Teresa Quattrin, MD, UB Distinguished Professor of pediatrics and senior associate dean for research integration, that presents research in a fun, age-appropriate way, has arrived at Explore & More — The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Children’s Museum.
“We are thrilled to welcome our newest exhibit and partner with the University at Buffalo,” says Michelle Urbanczyk, CEO of Explore & More. “This fun and immersive exhibit is timely, and our goal in sharing this with our visitors is to advance knowledge in what is clinical research and the importance of being a part of a study. Our visitors will see firsthand the process and learn about what role they can play in being a part of clinical research.”
The video game version of “Sofia” developed out of a multidisciplinary effort created by researchers at UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) to educate children and their parents about clinical research and how they themselves could be part of medical breakthroughs happening in Buffalo.
Both UB researchers and museum staff agree that partnering on this project turned out to make tremendous sense.
“One of our seven educational play zones features a hospital and research lab designed for children to role-play some of these critical jobs in the community,” says Amelia Schrader, senior education manager at Explore & More. “The partnership with the CTSI team was the perfect opportunity to further enhance our play research lab and focus on some of the amazing clinical research that is happening right here in Buffalo.”
Created in collaboration with the International Institute of Buffalo, the coloring book is available in English, Spanish and Arabic versions for free at the exhibit and through the CTSI. It tells the story of Sofia, a little girl who has asthma. Sofia goes to the doctor with her dad and little brother, Michael, and together they learn about how, through clinical research, they might be able to help doctors find better treatments for the disease. The coloring book includes puzzles and activities, such as crack-the-code and connect-the-dots features.
Available since 2018, the “Sofia” coloring and activity book is all the more relevant in light of the increased interest in medical research as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The interactive web version of the book came out in 2020, and gives children the opportunity to color, play games and engage with Sofia’s journey on iPads and laptop and desktop computers.
“Our goal has been for children and their parents to share in the excitement of the clinical research that has been going on in Buffalo for decades,” Quattrin says. Quattrin, an internationally renowned researcher who has directed multiple clinical trials in pediatric endocrinology, led the CTSI team that developed the “Sofia” materials. She directs the CTSI’s Special Populations Core.
“Since the pandemic began, the increased public conversations around health and science are making this exhibit and all the ‘Sofia’ materials we’ve developed all that much more compelling,” says Quattrin, a physician with UBMD Pediatrics. “We are pleased that we can help provide children and their parents with an educational and fun experience about medical research during this difficult time.”
The “Sofia Learns About Research” game is featured prominently in the front of the museum’s play research lab on the third floor. (The museum’s COVID-19 requirements mandate that all visitors wear masks and obey museum instructions, including social distancing.)
“The oversized touch screen is designed for a whole family to play together at once,” Schrader says. “With the child and caregiver working together, both will gain a deeper understanding of the importance of conducting and participating in clinical research.”
The video game exhibit is the latest development in the journey of “Sofia.” Most recently, the book was adapted for an interactive, web-based version on the CTSI website.
“Explore & More is continually building relationships with community partners to ensure we are highlighting the best of Buffalo and Western New York,” Schrader says. “We hope this is the first of many projects with the university.”
“And when children take home their free ‘Sofia Learns About Research’ books, the learning that occurs in the museum will be extended into the home,” Schrader adds. “It is great that the CTSI is providing these books, available in three languages, supporting the museum’s pursuit of representing the diverse communities in our region.”
A key objective for the National Institutes of Health National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, which funds the CTSI in Buffalo and centers like it throughout the U.S., is to improve health and reduce health care disparities in communities.
In addition to Quattrin, co-authors on the “Sofia” coloring book were: Renee B. Cadzow, PhD, adjunct assistant professor of pediatrics; and Alexandra Marrone, fourth-year medical student at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Isabella Bannerman, a Buffalo native and award-winning cartoonist who is one of the contributors to the syndicated comic strip “Six Chix,” did the illustrations. The graphic design was completed by Tia Canonico, a Rochester Institute of Technology graduate.