At the end of every Digital WAVE session, we celebrate the students’ accomplishment with students, Museum staff, invited families and friends … and of course, chocolate cake! At our recent Family Event at the end of this year’s spring session, students presented the virtual world projects they’d created, which were designed to illustrate water pathways and the impacts of climate change on south Florida. Throughout the program, students gathered information for their projects through all kinds of fun activities. They went on a field trip to Anne Kolb Nature Center, met in-person with University of Miami scientist Dr. Arthur Mariano, met Dr. Annmarie Eldering of NASA via virtual worlds, conducted their own research, and built model aquifers. They even met virtually with students from Maloka Interactive Science Center in Colombia, who were also working on water and climate related projects, through the Museum’s SCEnaRioS project. The final result was truly impressive, because not only did each group create south Florida environments like the Everglades or downtown Miami, but all of the groups worked together to make these environments fit in one interactive map of south Florida. All of the students received well-deserved certificates of completion, not to mention some yummy cake.
Dr. Annmarie Eldering works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. She recently met with students in the Digital Wave program, to tell them about her job and what inspired her to follow her career path. That career path has been pretty amazing, and students had soooo many questions. Dr. Eldering work involves extracting information about clouds, aerosols, and trace gases in the Earth’s atmosphere with satellites and remote sensing instruments. And she is the Deputy Project Scientist on the soon-to-be-launched Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2) satellite, which will map CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere, basically “watching the Earth breathe.” And how did this awesome career path begin? It’s simple. An interest in chemistry and math, and wanting to know what stuff is made of.
When a NASA scientist meets high school students, you may automatically think that it is always the NASA scientist that would be teaching the students. But at the Museum’s Digital WAVE: Warming Winds and Water program, the scientist taught the students, AND the students taught the scientist. At Digital WAVE’s first virtual speaker event of Fall 2011, Dr. Mike Gunson from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California met with Digital WAVE students in Miami to talk about climate change. The event took place in the virtual world of Second Life, and everyone communicated through his or her avatars. Dr. Gunson is an atmospheric scientist and works on the OCO (Orbiting Carbon Observatory) satellite that will map carbon dioxide from space and will “watch the Earth breathe.”
Dr. Gunson speaks to students around the Digital WAVE campfire.
Dr. Gunson talked about how carbon dioxide was “the missing link between soft drinks, forests, ocean acidity, wild fires, cement production, and volcanoes” and how records and observations from ice cores and satellites show how carbon dioxide levels have increased, and how humans have contributed to the problem.
Dr. Gunson explains The Keeling Curve, which shows direct observations of increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since 1958.
Then… students had the opportunity to show Dr. Gunson what they had been working on in virtual worlds. Their avatars led Dr. Gunson’s avatar to where the students are building 3D objects as part of their projects to create virtual climate change exhibits. Getting feedback from a NASA scientist is pretty special. And getting his attention so much so that he asked for an invitation to come back to see their final projects – that’s saying something.
The beginnings of students' virtual exhibit projects on climate change. See the glaciers?