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2018  Proposal/BTR deadline: 2/1/18

Ithaca area middle school students now have an exciting new way—3D, kinesthetic, and visual—to experience topography and isolines in their science classrooms, thanks to our outreach team at Xraise.

A key element of Xraise's mission--in fulfillment of NSF's broader impacts criterion—is to connect people to Synchrotron Science. One way we do that is through the resources we offer K-12 teachers as part of our Lending Library. Using a two-pronged approach: we support existing curriculum by answering to the immediate needs of science teachers who are on the front lines with students everyday; and we influence change in the curriculum itself toward integration of engineering practices, 21st century skills, and the cutting-edge research and technology of our world-class laboratory.

We have recently added a new teaching-tool, the Augmented Reality Sandbox, to our arsenal of teaching resources. Originally developed at UC Davis's Keck Center as part of an NSF- funded science education project, the AR Sandbox maps brightly colored isolines onto a 3D surface in real-time. Since it first launched over five years ago, it has proven itself to be a powerful teaching tool.

The idea for our own AR Sandbox arose when teachers participating in our Summer Science Snapshot program were exploring ways to integrate technology into their 5th grade place-based watershed curriculum while still keeping it “hands-on” and exciting. The project culminated in a perfect storm of: what was needed, what hardware was readily available, what was possible with the experts on-hand, and in its relevance to the science of our laboratory.

Only four months into our pilot period, this resource has been successfully used with 5th, 6th, and 8th graders across three districts. Presently stationed in its third classroom at DeWitt Middle School, teachers have rewritten their lesson plans to embrace the AR Sandbox’s permanent integration into their Physical Science and Earth Science classes.

Collaborating DeWitt Physical Science teacher, Laurie VanVleet, has been developing curriculum for the sandbox that forces students to think, visualize, and apply their learning. Initially without the aid of the projector and software, students in small groups design their own landscapes—predicting where the contour lines will be; then the projector is turned on so they can compare their predictions. Sixth grade science teacher Liz Quadrozzi offers, “Teaching topography and isolines used to be either flat or messy. Not with this!”

Whether we’re characterizing thin films or the ordered lattice of a crystal, measuring and interpreting features of surfaces is a strong area of research at CHESS—to say nothing of the interest we have in assuring that our beam optics are as close to perfection as possible. Our AR Sandbox offers students, at an impressionable age, an immersive, enriching, and positive experience in topography. This timely and relevant connection to existing curriculum has allowed us to meet these future scientists where they are in their trajectory—serving as a gateway to the science of our laboratory.



Submitted by: Erik Herman, CHESS, Cornell University