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

Paper No. 20
Presentation Time: 6:00 PM-8:00 PM


SULLIVAN, Gianna1, JOHNSON, Kirk2, BOWRING, Sam3, HALL, Tiffany1 and BAYSINGER, Dave4, (1)Education, Denver Museum of Nature & Sci, 2001 Colorado Blvd, Denver, CO 80205, (2)Department of Earth Sciences, Denver Museum of Nature & Sci, 2001 Colorado Blvd, Denver, CO 80205, (3)Dept. of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Mass Inst. of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MS 02139, (4)Technology, Denver Museum of Nature & Sci, 2001 Colorado Blvd, Denver, CO 80205, gsullivan@dmns.org

The R@DIUS Project is a hands-on, interdisciplinary approach to learning science that connects students directly with scientists and field researchers. The goal of this educational outreach program is to make geochronology understandable to middle school students and the general public. The R@DIUS Project will look at the uranium-lead radiometric dating process step-by-step; starting with sampling layers of volcanic ash in the field, to isolating the uranium-bearing zircon crystals, to analyzing the crystals with instruments in the MIT lab, and ending with the calculation of the age of the crystal. We will address the difficulties of discussing challenging concepts such as half life, decay of radioactive isotopes, daughter-products and the geologically brief existence of humans.

Using materials developed by the Museum, participating teachers and students during the 2005/2006 school year will use the scientific method to understand the science of geochronology, including understanding stratigraphy, half-life and techniques of radiometric dating. Additionally, the program will address misconceptions about science and scientists. Educational techniques include a combination of classroom materials, videos and live interactive datacasts to integrate current museum and university research findings with the curricula of local middle schools.

Through a partnership with Rocky Mountain PBS, a dozen school sites reaching over 1200 middle school students are outfitted with technology that will allow them to receive live interactive broadcasts featuring DMNS and MIT scientists who are collaborating on geochronologic research as part of the EARTHTIME initiative. The data is sent via high bandwidth signals directly to computers in school classrooms, delivering digital TV quality images. The interactive, real-time datacast is a unique opportunity for students to ask scientists questions about the scientific method and on-going research.

Future years will include teacher professional development and dissemination of developed materials including a stand alone video addressing the question of How Do We Know What We Know.