Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 8:15 AM


KISSEL, Richard A.1, DUGGAN-HAAS, Don1 and ROSS, Robert M.2, (1)Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, NY 14850, (2)Paleontological Research Institution, Ithaca, NY 14850,

As part of the ReaL (Regional and Local) Earth Inquiry Project, the Paleontological Research Institution is actively developing Virtual Fieldwork Experiences (VFEs) that allow students to virtually explore real-world locations. VFEs are constructed on answering the core question: Why does this place look the way it does? A successful VFE is an interactive, inquiry-based investigation, not a passive description of a field site. While a VFE might serve students in lieu of an actual visit to a site, it is intended as a gateway to actual fieldwork, providing pre- and/or post-visit exercises. The development of VFEs engages educators and learners in the close study of their environment.

In an effort to promote the development and use of VFEs across the country, PRI has developed a successful professional development program for K-16 and informal educators. The program is designed as a series of 2.5-day workshops that focus on: best practices for documenting a field site; the development of required technological skills; pedagogy and the development of inquiry-based instruction; and creating a support network for the educators as they incorporate VFEs into their classroom or institution. Content areas incorporated into VFEs are based upon intended audience; an interdisciplinary approach is recommended, examining the geology, ecology, archaeology, paleontology, etc. to develop explanations for a location's appearance. Beyond the 2.5-day workshop, PRI staff continue working with participants via online discussion groups, completing a group-based VFE and assisting with individual educator-created VFEs based on a site near their school or museum. Testing of this professional development model and its resulting products--a catalog of educator-produced VFEs--indicate success and support the program's continuation. VFEs from the ReaL Earth Inquiry Project, as well as best-practice manuals and other resources helpful for VFE production, are hosted online at The ReaL Earth Inquiry project is supported by NSF DRL 0733303.