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IES Contract

Title: The Digital Earth Explorations Project to Enrich the Middle School Sciences
Center: NCER Year: 2008
Principal Investigator: Newman, George Awardee: One Planet Education Network
Program: Small Business Innovation Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2.5 years Award Amount: $850,000
Type: Phase II Development Award Number: ED08CO0050
Description:

Product Video Demonstration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbEQkKOQVmM

Purpose: This project team will develop three-dimensional (3D) web-based virtual reality games as a supplement to middle school life science, social studies, and persuasive writing curricula. The games will be based in environments that are representations of real-world U.S. National Parks, including Mesa Verde National Park and World Heritage Site, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Marine Sanctuary (with the support of the Cousteau Ocean Futures Society). The games will be aligned to standards in the life sciences. Students will perform inquiry-based activities, or quests, to understand and solve problems that arise in the game. Each adventure or mission will be designed to connect to specific academic standards and disciplinary content, but will be contained in a game-based scenario with compelling narrative to facilitate learning of core science concepts in order to help students better understand and value cultural and natural heritage.

Project Activities: Using an iterative research and development process, the team will develop three standards-based 3D virtual learning applications representing real-world locations and supporting teacher materials. In order to assess feasibility and usability, and to gather preliminary data on potential efficacy of the intervention to improve students' science knowledge and skills, a randomized controlled study will be conducted in 26 classrooms. Half of these classrooms will use the intervention while half will continue with the standard curricula. Analyses will compare group differences in student outcomes using standardized test scores. Qualitative observational data will collected from a subset of classrooms.

Products: The product will be three games based in 3D virtual environments that are representations of real-world national parks in the United States, including Mesa Verde National Park and World Heritage Site, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Marine Sanctuary (with the support of the Cousteau Ocean Futures Society). A teacher manual and toolkit for registering students, assigning activities, and reviewing submitted work, will also be developed.


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