2011 GSA Annual Meeting in Minneapolis (912 October 2011)
Paper No. 193-2
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:00 PM

MARS ANALOGS IN YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK - A VIRTUAL FIELD ENVIRONMENT (VFE) CONSTRUCTION AS A FIELD ACTIVITY IN TEACHER EDUCATION IN ASTROBIOLOGY

GRANSHAW, Frank, Geology, Portland Community College, 12000 SW 49th Ave, Portland, OR 97219, fgransha@pcc.edu, CADY, Sherry, Geology, Portland State University, 1721 SW Broadway, 17 Cramer Hall, Portland, OR 97201, and WELLS, Jennifer, Center for Science Education, Portland State University, Portland, OR 97201

In July 2011, ten middle and high school teachers enrolled in a Portland State University astrobiology course held at Yellowstone National Park constructed a simple virtual reality environment that documented their field experience at a hot springs located in the park’s Lower Geyser Basin. The spatial and temporal status of this extremophile ecosystem, known as Queens Laundry, was archived as a set of interactive panoramas of the field site. These panoramas represent the first layer of a virtual field environment (VFE) designed to be accessed by the STEM teachers from a geospatial browser for use in STEM curriculum. Textual/numeric data and detailed imagery have been imbedded in each panorama as a result of the research experiences of the teachers. The VFE served as a vehicle for documenting the teachers research experience and, as a focal activity for the fieldwork component of the course.

A major challenge solved in 2011 was the establishment of a VFE construction protocol that incorporated datasets acquired by the course participants as they developed new field and laboratory skills during the research activities. To address this issue, a VR designer was employed to build the environment using the photography and various datasets gathered by course faculty and participants. This approach, which enabled faculty and course participants to spend time focusing on the science of the fieldwork, also revealed that VFE construction and development needed to take place rapidly enough (i.e., daily) so that teacher participants could be significantly involved in guiding its content and use.

Current efforts are focused on the creation of assessment tools to evaluate the educational value of the VFE construction process and its use in the classrooms of the teacher participants. Such quantitative evaluation tools will reflect the following insights that have emerged from interviews and informal conversations with the participants and course faculty: (1) VFE creation is a highly motivating activity that provides a tangible product at the end of a course, (2) VFE creation provides a multi-faceted mechanism for documenting and presenting the field activity of the teacher participants, (3) the course participants would like to use this product with their own students, independent of how they use it in the Yellowstone lesson plan.

2011 GSA Annual Meeting in Minneapolis (912 October 2011)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 193--Booth# DP5
Virtual Reality in Geoscience Education II (Digital Posters)
Minneapolis Convention Center: Hall C
9:00 AM-6:00 PM, Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 43, No. 5, p. 476

© Copyright 2011 The Geological Society of America (GSA), all rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted to the author(s) of this abstract to reproduce and distribute it freely, for noncommercial purposes. Permission is hereby granted to any individual scientist to download a single copy of this electronic file and reproduce up to 20 paper copies for noncommercial purposes advancing science and education, including classroom use, providing all reproductions include the complete content shown here, including the author information. All other forms of reproduction and/or transmittal are prohibited without written permission from GSA Copyright Permissions.