2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 242-7
Presentation Time: 3:00 PM


DUGGAN-HAAS, Don, The Paleontological Research Institution, 92 South Drive, Amherst, NY 14226, WHITE, Tim, Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, Pennsylvania State University, 2217 Earth and Engineering Building, University Park, PA 16802, ROSS, Robert M., Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, NY 14850 and DERRY, Louis A., Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, dad55@cornell.edu

Virtual Fieldwork Environments (VFEs) of the Critical Zone (CZ) local to schools provide opportunities for in-depth study of complex systems that can be coordinated across both disciplines and years of study while also satisfying content expectations that are subject and grade-level appropriate. We are creating VFEs of CZ Observatories (CZOs) that serve both as curriculum resources for exploring particular CZOs and as models for exploring the CZ outside the classroom door. Both the content - the CZ and how it is studied - and the pedagogical approach - creating VFEs - are well-suited to addressing The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) especially as related to Earth systems science and complex adaptive systems. The pedagogical approach attends to challenges of implementing NGSS in the complex system of schooling.

The CZ extends from the bottom of the water table to the tops of vegetation. Soil is at the heart of the CZ and both results from and shapes the interplay of air, water, life and rock. Nine NSF-funded CZOs in the US engage teams of geologists, hydrologists, ecologists and other scientists in the integrated study of the CZ. This also involves the use and production of a wide range of instruments and related infrastructure for capturing, quantifying, and sharing observations of the CZ.

VFEs are multimedia representations of actual field sites. VFEs serve as curriculum resources for exploring a particular place remotely and the authoring of VFEs is a pedagogical approach that allows students to document and share their fieldwork within and beyond the classroom. The driving question for VFEs, “Why does this place look the way it does?” invites interdisciplinary exploration of the environment.

The approach addresses problems of siloing of disciplines and grade levels within the complex system of education. The NGSS envisions coordinated instruction across disciplines and grade levels to build deep understandings of three-dimensional science. In current common curriculum structures, depth is difficult, but reframing the topic of in-depth study from a topic within a single discipline or grade level to the study of the local environment allows for the work to move from a single unit in a single course to an interdisciplinary and systems-rich endeavor that could last years while also addressing disciplinary content.

  • GSA2015-CZO-VFE.pptx (1.9 MB)