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May 31, 2011

Ramp I.T. Up! With Skate!, Native American skateboard culture returns to the museum

A few curious onlookers stop to see what we are doing. I hear a “Cool! Can we come back?” With this, I turn to see a young father provide an assuring smile and a pat on his son’s back. It’s about 10:30 in the morning, and we are setting up equipment on the 3rd floor between the Vantage Point exhibition and the Activity Center, now under construction. TV? Check. Game installed? Check. Board calibrated and communicating with the TV? Oh, no, it’s not turning on. Hmmmm, time for fresh batteries? The hunt is on to find a tiny Phillips screwdriver to remove the board's back cover. My colleague walks up at just the right time and pulls out his pocket toolkit. Success! With batteries replaced, the board’s blue light is on. I pick up the remote, press the letter A, and the rock music starts. Now . . . we wait for the testers.


Skateboarding is an indigenous sport. The modern skateboard, or deck, owes its heritage to thepapa he‘e malu(surfboards) andpapahōlua (land sleds) of Native Hawaiians. And did you know that the International Association of Skateboard Companies estimates that nearly 12 million American children participate in skateboarding—more than the number enrolled in Little League Baseball? Skateboarding is also one of the most popular sports on Indian reservations, and the subject of Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native Americaa highly successful exhibition at NMAI in Washington and New York. So it seemed only fitting to find a way to bring skateboarding—and the wonderful content from Ramp It Up—back to the museum. But how could we do this in a small space? Enter the I.T. (Information Technology) staff and the game Tony Hawk: Shred, here played on a Wii.

At various times during the months of April and May, you may have seen us testing the Shred skateboard experience with visitors. We’ve been checking to see if the public understands the themes and messages and if the interactive can work without regular, direct staff involvement. We’ve been pleased to find the answer to these questions is yes. We’ve enjoyed watching visitors from young children to older adults approach the skateboard. Some people have known exactly how to work the controls, gleefully speeding toward the finish line while their friends or parents offer congratulations for a game well skated. Others have steadfastly tried to complete a run after they electronically ate it, hearing the game's “Oooo!” followed by a sympathetic “Ow!” from the gathered crowd. 

Taking turns

On any given test day, we’ll observe the interaction for about two hours or until it seems like a good time to pack up. On this day, it’s now 12:30. I turn off the monitor, collect the cords, remind myself to recharge the batteries, and roll the equipment cart to the staff elevator. I take one last look around and then disappear behind the camouflage doors feeling pretty confident that the test went well.

Want to know more about this activity? I invite you to get amped and check out your 5-0 with a jam session when the Activity Center opens later this year!      

—Erin Weinman, I.T. Applications Manager, NMAI

Visitors testing the Skate! activity at the museum, April 29, 2011. Photos by Katherine Fogden (Mohawk), NMAI.


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Absolutely amazing piece of invention. Kids gotta love it much :)

Great idea. Provide great education and make it fun! And good exercise as well. It seems like this could (should) be incorporated into more of the curriculum.

Now that looks like fun. I had no idea you could skate board on the Wii. I have a Wii and did not know this was available. I must say my kids would love this.. I wonder if Tony Hawk or Rob Dyrdek assisted in the development of this game. This reminds me back in the day, when I use to skateboard.. This looks like a much safer way to skateboard. Well I am glad I found this, my kids will be super excited too. :)

Landon Shire

I have heard about this game at the end of 2010. Only by looking at how this game works, I could take a decision that this is a kind of break through in gaming. To me, this is the the "real game" to play. A game in which moving the whole body to play, I like this game.

one of the benefits of technology, we can play indoor skateboard. thanks

great, i used to love skateboarding 30 years ago an i did not know the origin, i think this should be advertised as part of the rich cultural heritage that native americans gave to world culture.

Wow, this is a great way of promoting Native American skateboard culture; very interesting read. Thank you!

Webmaster of Longboard Reviews

This is really new for me. We have a Wii-Fit Plus at home that we use in conjunction with the big TV. However, we never thought about adding skateboarding to the games. Now we will look for it at the shops.

Also I think this is a great way for kids to stay healthy whilst having fun at the same time. So are still doing the tests?

Matt. (Orlando, Florida)

Perhaps the actual skateboard the kids are standing on should be replaced with a more authentic "papa he‘e malu" to more firmly make the connection between the modern sport and the origin from the surfboard?

Dave L.

This is new for me.I think this is a great thing for kids to stay healthy and hvaing fun.thank you very much.

That looks great for kids, but I still think they would prefer the real thing. It looks like a cross between a skateboard and a surboard.

I love this! Ever since we bought our Wii, it has been extremely convenient to have something like this to keep the kids active indoors. Especially during very cold weather and we just went through a very, very hot summer here in the south. Thanks for posting this. I'm sure your readers will value this article as much as I have.

Any activity that keeps our youth not in front of the TV is excellent. Skateboard is much of our culture now then any other recreational sport.

I think any good activity that keeps our youth active is an excellent idea

Skateboarding if fun and love it too. Its sure a piece of America culture.

This is how technology works. It is an exercise, thrill, adventure and fun in one. Kids would love it and the parents would also be happy because unlike any other video games, they also need to exert energy.

Maybe I shouldn't comment as I haven't yet tested the board but it might be even better with a small height from the floor...

Yes I think the benefits of such games go beyond fun, this could be the cure to obesity and potato couch syndrome that we're now witnessing in the modernized world.

Interactive games will continue to evolve and for the most part it is for the good. You may see kids with their heads down on their ipads and think they are video gaming zombies, but tablets are also amazing learning devices.

Looking forward to the snowboarding game!

I so like that skateboard. I really like the technology nowadays.


Love the technology for indoor skateboard! Just curious to try myself :) This kinda game is really interesting. All the time simply, I use to play online games. I just wanna try this indoor Skate!

The indoor skateboards look awesome that would work great since we are in Colorado.

Kids love anything with video it seems! At least it gets them moving and can help get them activity when the weather is bad!

Nice article good to read this. i love skateboard and i have many skateboard in my childhood.

Thanks for this sharing this wonderful project and educating the world on the real origins of skateboarding.

I really like to play games and this of one of my favorite.
Looking to play like this. Thanks for this.

Thank you for this information.

really enjoyed to read this article

This is my first time pay a quick visit at here and i am truly impressed to read everything in one place.

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