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

Paper No. 35-7
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM


CHRAIBI, Victoria L. Shaw1, MUMGAARD, Annie2, LOOPE, Cynthia2 and FRENCH, Kathleen2, (1)Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68588, (2)Nebraska State Museum, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Morrill Hall, Lincoln, NE 68588, vchraibi@huskers.unl.edu

Distance learning provides educational experiences for students and teachers in situations where they cannot access or afford travel. The University of Nebraska State Museum has developed a distance learning program that provides virtual field trips (VFT) with science curricula on specific topics for appropriate age levels. Each curriculum is two-fold: first, the classroom receives a kit in the mail with pre-visit activities like fossils and hands-on materials that emphasize using the Scientific Method to answer questions. Second, the classroom uses internet videoconferencing to go on a live 45-minute virtual field trip to the museum exhibit of interest, mediated by museum educators. A new program, Examine Evolution!, reinforces key concepts of evolution taught at the 7th and 10th grade levels to Nebraska state education standards. The classroom kit activities focus on four key concepts of evolution: variation, using the metaphor of finch beaks as tools; inheritance, using DNA strand lengths and genetic surveys; selection, using the mating dances and calls of Hawaiian fruit flies; and time, using real and cast fossils from Nebraska. These concepts are reviewed during the 45-minute virtual field trip. The tour then focuses on the importance of evolution in the daily life of students by highlighting human health, exemplified by HIV, and environmental and climatic change, exemplified by diatoms. Teacher responses to the development of an evolution program in Nebraska have been positive, especially to having a physical kit with fossils and materials that support learning goals, and access to examples of and interaction with real scientists doing research.