2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 3:00 PM


MANNER, Barbara M., Physics/Education, Duquesne Univ, Pittsburgh, PA 15282, manner@duq.edu

Teachers using the Rocks and Minerals module (STC) notice that students are very enthusiastic about the subject matter and feel that the module is very strong in coverage of minerals but does not adequately deal with rocks. In addition, it provides no opportunities for children to make observations and answer their own questions about rocks. RJLee Group, an environmental consulting company in the Pittsburgh area, received a grant from NSF to develop software that would address this shortcoming but also would be appropriate for any elementary school science program that includes rocks and minerals. A Leadership Team was formed and consisted of scientists from RJLee, a content specialist from ASSET Inc. (a Pittsburgh organization that focuses on science education) local elementary and middle school science teachers, and a Duquesne University earth science faculty member. The team determined what content should be included and at the same time maintained alignment with both state and national science education standards. The resulting software, iOPT, which simulates the optical microscope, allows students to look closely at the mineral composition and textural characteristics of selected examples of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. It also includes an inquiry portion in which students can look at unknowns and determine the rock type based on what was observed in previous lessons. Background information was included for both the teacher and the students at a level appropriate to each.

After the software was designed and tested by the team, it was field tested with teachers in a number of school districts in the greater Pittsburgh area. Feedback was in the form of a survey that addressed not only the ease in using the iOPT web site but also the background material and the ability of the students to use and understand what they were seeing in the simulator. Feedback from teachers was very positive. A focus group of select teachers and the original team was formed to modify the iOPT software, based on the survey feedback, so that it met the needs of the teachers, was appropriate in content, and easily accessed and used by the students. Further field testing was conducted and the final product will be used in classrooms starting in the fall of 2005.