141 Developing an Educational Program Using Science on a Sphere

Monday, 8 January 2018
Exhibit Hall 3 (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Michelle Corcoran, Morristown-Beard School, Morristown, NJ; and R. Tone, J. A. Yuhas, and E. L. Russell

Starting in the spring of 2017, Morristown-Beard School (MBS), Morristown, NJ, student Michelle Corcoran created an educational program aimed towards dyslexic K-5 youth at the Peck School by using Science On a Sphere technology piloted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and collaborating with Beth Russell of NOAA/Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and Michael Karosen from the Peck School. This unique pedagogical platform allowed for information to be catered to the students’ needs, rather than vice versa, and provided a more immersive experience for everyone involved.

The Science On a Sphere is a 360° screen onto which graphics depicting earth’s atmospheric conditions are projected. Lessons are given by programming a sequence of graphics to be played across the sphere and constructing an oral presentation to accompany and enhance the visual cues. This technology is typically used in museums or public display areas, so introducing Science On a Sphere to a high school provides the unique opportunity to present for a specific audience.

Though learning the mechanical fundamentals of the technology was a critical aspect of the project, greater emphasis was placed on mastering the most effective strategies used to reach learning disabled students. The technology itself already possessed great potential for heightened student engagement, but extensive research was required to take full advantage of the possibilities.

The typical American classroom’s initial focus is on fixed material that must be covered over a certain span of time, causing teaching methods to be tailored around content. In this scenario, students’ unique learning styles and preferences are not the priority of the establishment; when classroom structures become rigid, it is often difficult for children to maintain their focus.

Science On a Sphere reverses the process of content to students, identifying the needs of the classroom based on age, ability, and learning style, then complying with them. By recognizing successful methods of reaching young audiences first, teachers will be able to hold their students attention, therefore ingraining content more effectively. The 3-D projection screen provides an alternative to the flat earth view so often presented in books or on televisions.

With new, innovative technology being introduced to the world each day, it is essential to stay up to date when working with young audiences. When every lesson utilizes the same materials in the same format, classroom life falls into a pattern of monotony, leaving children restless and disengaged.

The Science On a Sphere, when used to its capacity, provides the excitement of seeing something new all while teaching students about important earthly phenomena. Technology is an increasingly more crucial factor of life in the modern world, so learning to harness its power in an educational format gives students the opportunity to adapt to the constant growth.

As a student in high school, Michelle Corcoran was given a unique perspective when placed in a teaching position. Age and experience are typically viewed as assets for a teacher, but in this case, the exact opposite was true. Having only been on the receiving end of lessons in school, she gained a more current understanding of what students want in a class, and therefore could come up with a more effective method to convey her ideas. The combination of Michelle’s proximity to the audience and Michael Karosen’s understanding of teaching resulted in an atypically well-rounded approach to education.

The integration of Science On a Sphere into the classroom expands children’s interest in science and technology while engaging and encouraging students with learning disabilities. This forward thinking method of teaching is an example of the most positive uses of new materials in educational fields, and will prepare students for the ever-changing, technological society of the modern world.

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