Collecting Solar System Data Stories for Project SPECTRA: A Spectroscopic Exploration of the Planets
We are expanding our existing set of middle and high school spectroscopy lessons, Project SPECTRA, to include a full suite of data-rich solar system exploration activities using spectral data from NASA planetary spacecraft. Project SPECTRA takes an integrated science and engineering approach to spectroscopy with foundation modules exploring patterns in nature and patterns in light as well as a hands-on spectrograph build. We have field-tested these foundation modules along with a Saturn/Titan data exploration which invites students to investigate the composition of Saturn's rings and the moon Titan using data from the Cassini Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph. We are seeking solar system data stories that will allow us create complete spectroscopy-based tour of the planets in the model of the existing Cassini activity.
The plague of too much data? Challenges and opportunities for using virtual observatories in the classroom
Virtual observatories (VOs) and other distributed data systems offer opportunities to bring large amounts of authentic data, both real-time and historical, into the classroom. For non-scientists, finding their way through the data in a VO can be challenging and trying to put the data into an educational context can be show-stopping. We explore strategies used successfully by VOs to bring data to teachers. In addition, we develop guidelines and suggestions for educational professionals involved in teacher professional development to incorporate VOs into their training workshops.
MY NASA DATA: Making Earth Science Data Accessible to the K-12 Community
In 2004, the Mentoring and inquirY using NASA Data on Atmospheric and Earth science for Teachers and Amateurs (MY NASA DATA) project began. The goal of this project is to enable K-12 and citizen science communities to make use of the large volume of Earth System Science data that NASA has collected and archived. One major outcome is to allow students to select a problem of real-life importance, and to explore it using high quality data sources without spending months looking for and then learning how to use a dataset. The key element of the MY NASA DATA project is the implementation of a Live Access Server (LAS). The LAS is an open source software tool, developed by NOAA, that provides access to a variety of data sources through a single, fairly simple, point- and- click interface. This tool truly enables use of the available data - more than 100 parameters are offered so far - in an inquiry-based educational setting. It readily gives students the opportunity to browse images for times and places they define, and also provides direct access to the underlying data values - a key feature of this educational effort. The team quickly discovered, however, that even a simple and fairly intuitive tool is not enough to make most teachers comfortable with data exploration. User feedback has led us to create a friendly LAS Introduction page, which uses the analogy of a restaurant to explain to our audience the basic concept of an LAS. In addition, we have created a "Time Coverage at a Glance" chart to show what data are available when. This keeps our audience from being too confused by the patchwork of data availability caused by the start and end of individual missions. Finally, we have found it necessary to develop a substantial amount of age appropriate documentation, including topical pages and a science glossary, to help our audience understand the parameters they are exploring and how these parameters fit into the larger picture of Earth System Science. MY NASA DATA intends to create a community of data explorers. A MY NASA DATA e-mentor network provides opportunities for educators, students, and citizens to engage in dialog about the questions they encounter. The website hosts a collection of data-based lesson plans that have been written by teachers for use in their own classrooms. A new portion of the website, launched this summer, invites submission of student research projects that use our resources. Finally, we are continually seeking additional Earth System Science datasets that can be offered to our audience through the MY NASA DATA LAS interface.
Demystifying Scientific Data ï¿½ Using Earth Science to Teach the Scientific Method
The collection of large quantities of data and their subsequent analyses are important components of any scientific process, particularly at research institutes such as MIT's Haystack Observatory, where the collection and analyses of data is crucial to research efforts. Likewise, a recent study on science education concluded that students should be introduced to analyzing evidence and hypotheses, to critical thinking - including appropriate skepticism, to quantitative reasoning and the ability to make reasonable estimates, and to the role of uncertainty and error in science. In order to achieve this goal with grades 9-12 students and their instructors, we developed lesson plans and activities based on atmospheric science and geodetic research at Haystack Observatory. From the complex steps of experimental design, measurement, and data analysis, students and teachers will gain insight into the scientific research processes as they exist today. The use of these space weather and geodesy activities in classrooms will be discussed. Space Weather: After decades of data collection with multiple variables, space weather is about as complex an area of investigation as possible. Far from the passive relationship between the Sun and Earth often taught in the early grades, or the beautiful auroras discussed in high school, there are complex and powerful interactions between the Sun and Earth. In spite of these complexities, high school students can learn about space weather and the repercussions on our communication and power technologies. Starting from lessons on the basic method of observing space weather with incoherent scatter radar, and progressing to the use of simplified data sets, students will discover how space weather affects Earth over solar cycles and how severe solar activity is measured and affects the Earth over shorter time spans. They will see that even from complex, seemingly ambiguous data with many variables and unknowns, scientists can gain valuable insights into complicated processes. Geodesy: Students learn about tectonic plate theory in middle school to explain continental drift, but have no idea about how it is determined. By learning about the process, students become more familiar with measurement, uncertainty, and error. Students who analyze continental drift using observations from very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) will discover the current limits of scientific measurement (approximately one part in a billion) and see how even these data may contain unmodeled effects. In both projects the process of understanding data will give the students a better picture of how science works. These lessons and activities were created under the Research Experiences for Teachers program of the National Science Foundation.
Using NASA Data on Science on a Sphere: Placing Earth and Planetary Science Data in an Authentic Context
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has recently installed Science on a Sphere (SOS) at the Visitor Center. This exhibit entails a 9-foot suspended globe with four projectors that project three- dimensional data onto the surface of a planetary body. We have embraced the exhibit as a unique opportunity to project high- resolution NASA data for educational purposes. One of the challenges in using planetary data is the inability to represent the data in an authentic manner. Science on a Sphere has circumvented this dilemma by enabling three-dimensional data to be projected in the proper spherical configuration. Data have been adapted and used from current and old missions including Aura, Cassini, SOHO, and Voyager. These data are used to supplement current education and public outreach efforts for the Aura, MESSENGER, and New Horizons missions. Aura mission scientists have developed an educational air quality program that uses high resolution NO2, ozone, SO2, and aerosol data. These data are used in conjunction with GLOBE atmosphere and Hands on the Land ozone bio-monitoring garden protocols to provide students and educators with a rich educational experience. Those who experience the program are able to see Aura data on a global scale, and when coupled with the GLOBE protocols, are able to relate to those data on a local scale. Coupling data on SOS with local data collection techniques provides an educational experience that neither could accomplish alone. Planetary images from Cassini and Voyager have been adapted for SOS, and are used to supplement the educational package Exploring Ice in the Solar System, developed by Carnegie Institute of Washington for MESSENGER and the NASA Astrobiology Institute. These examples of adaptations of planetary data for SOS are just two of many possible educational applications. In the coming year, the Aura education and public outreach team will be developing a movie for SOS using Aura data which will be distributed to each of the nine education centers that currently use the format.
Report of a Pre-Service Education Planetary Geology course using NASA Planetary Data
A pre-service education course in Planetary Geology was conducted at California State University-Fresno in collaboration with the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA planetary data and visualization materials supplemented traditional lectures. Participants (N=30) evaluated the content and applicability of using Planetary Data in Education. Two survey instruments were used and qualitative data was correlated. Written comments of teachers were captured and categorized. http://www.csufresno.edu/smec/events/earthscience1.html
MARS Valley Networks Project: Martian Valley Network Analysis Run-off or Sapping? - A WebGIS approach
We report the progress made in a two-year NASA funded EPO project, which takes advantage of the latest WebGIS technology to bring real NASA data to high school classrooms. The only requirement for the WebGIS is an Internet connection and a standard web browser allowing the widest possible accessibility. The overall goal of the project is to enhance the students' interest in science and to directly engage them in the actual process of conducting scientific research with a real scientific research question and real scientific datasets. The students will be exposed to the full process of conducting real scientific investigation: collecting evidence, analyzing data, formulating alternative hypotheses, and communicating and debating with their peers about their findings. Such opportunities are rarely available in the middle through high school level. We have set up the WebGIS (http://marsproject.niu.edu) and have completed the student and teacher tutorials. The standard-based student modules are being finalized and tested by two Master teachers this semester. A training workshop for teachers will be held Spring 2007. Approximately twenty classrooms will be participating fully by the 2007-08 school year.
A controlled experiment to evaluate the impact of summer research experiences on attitudes towards science in high school aged students
United States funding agencies increasingly are supporting activities designed to increase the enrollment of United States high school students in science, math, or engineering careers. However, in many cases, the likely outcomes of educational activities are unknown. A common approach within the physical and natural sciences is to provide high school aged students with a summer research experience, with the expectation that such experiences will increase student interest in science, possibly as a career choice. With funding support from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration New Investigator Grant program, we conducted a controlled experiment to test this assumption. In collaboration with Mountain Crest High School in Logan, UT, we recruited 40 students currently enrolled in science courses, assessed attitudes towards science (with informed consent), and randomly assigned 20 students to a control group and 20 students to an experimental group. Students in the experimental group were paired with faculty and graduate students in a wide range of field and laboratory research groups in natural resources and biology. Students were employed in at least two different research groups for an average of 30-40 hours per week for eight weeks in the summer of 2006. Following the completion of the summer work experience, we again assessed attitudes towards science in both groups and gathered additional information from the experimental group on satisfaction with the work experience and reasons for participating. Results are presented and discussed.