Udomprasert P, Goodman A, Ladd E, Offner S, Houghton H, Johnson E, Sunbury S, Plummer JD, Wright E, Sadler P, et al.WorldWide Telescope in Education. In: Impey C, Buxner S Astronomy Education - A Practitioner’s Guide to the Research. Bristol, UK: IOP Publishing ; In Press.
When students encounter complex topics like the search for extraterrestrial life, questions abound - thoughtful, unpredictable, and often profound. Despite this thriving curiosity, the first step to be able to explore complex questions is developing the capacity to verbalize a meaningful question. The WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors team designed an out-of-school curriculum called Life in the Universe, which engages middle school-aged students in the science and scientific process of the search for distant life. Students practice generating meaningful questions, which will guide them through the science content, as groups of students build to culminating capstone projects. Results from surveys administered to participating students indicate gains in curiosity in science, as well as in seeing oneself as successful in science.
When teaching science topics in which objects are too large or too small to observe laboratory settings—as is the case for astrophysics—how do you convey complex and intangible relationships in a meaningful way? Studies have shown that interactive visualization models that address common misconceptions can be powerful learning experiences. This article examines how the WorldWide Telescope (WWT) Ambassadors program has utilized the dynamic environment of the WWT platform to build meaningful representations of complex topics, and effectively address these teaching needs.