THE REAL EARTH INQUIRY PROJECT: INTRODUCING INQUIRY-DRIVEN FIELD EXPLORATION TO STUDENTS ACROSS THE NATION
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 www.virtualfieldwork.org. The ReaL Earth Inquiry project is supported by NSF DRL 0733303.