GAVRT teaches students to use radio astronomy, to control a huge antenna, and to collect science data from objects in the universe at which the antenna is pointed. GAVRT trains teachers, provides curriculum, and supports classroom implementation. GAVRT uses the Internet to connect students to Operations Control and the antenna. Students are actively involved in handling data for real science applications and learn that science is an ongoing process. Teachers are required to take a 4-5 day on site training course in order to gain access to GAVRT and many of the related materials. However, by clicking on http://www.gavrt.org you will be at a portal to a wealth of information: live feeds from the site, information on the Cassini-Huygens project, the JupiterQuest lesson, and an online course on the basics of radio astronomy. These are only a few of the possibilities.
On the site it states: "Students learn how to gather data, understand what the data means, and how to analyze and record it using a computer program."
Other learning goals for both teachers and students are:
Operate the GAVRT antenna
Gather real data and sharing it with researchers at JPL
Learn the basics of radio astronomy
Construct contour maps using a variety of methodologies
Teachers in grades 5-12 will have access to and know to implement specific science curricula with the GAVRT.
Target Student Population:
Teachers grades 5-12; undergraduates majoring in science and science and math education; graduate students in science education
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
For teachers: MUST take the online course in radio astronomy and be familiar for the workings of the GAVRT antenna. To have access to the GAVRT, curriculum materials, collaboration with researchers and Global Science Commons teachers must attend the on site training course.
Students grades 5-12: some knowledge of the electromagnetic spectrum, principles of observational astronomy using optical and non optical telescopes, familiarity with mapping techniques and the use of Excel.
Type of Material:
This is a learning object repository. JupiterQuest is a simulation. Basics of Radio Astronomy is an online course. The original link is a lecture/presentation. Links is a reference material.
The uses for this material need to be described separately for teacher and for students in grades 5-12. Teachers can become a novice radio astronomer by taking the online tutorial on radio astronomy and attending the on site training session. The JupiterQuest lesson can be used as a stand alone without the on site training. Many of the Links give teachers websites that their students can use to explore the solar system and other areas of astronomy. High school students should be able to complete the online course in radio astronomy independently. Many middle school students could do the activities in JupiterQuest with minimal input from a teacher. All students would find the websites in Links to be informative.
Internet browser; Adobe Reader 6.0 or higher; QuickTime 7.0 or higher; Flash Player, Excel(for JupiterQuest activity)
Evaluation and Observation
This is a fantastic collection of materials. It strengths are:
Has many, many different kinds of learning objects residing on the site
Utilizes best practice in science education
Exemplifies the Teaching and Professional Development Standards in the National Science Education Standards
Puts teachers and students in direct contact with scientists doing actual research, data collection and analysis
The vast richness of information, examples, images, and materials on deep space is the strength of the site. The overarching focus of the content is on radio astronomy and the role of the Deep Space network in exploring the Universe using radio waves. There are sections for Educators, Kids, Antennas, publications, a gallery, and more.
Several of the pages on the site have not been updated since 2005. The part of the site that is the most current is the Article section which was last updated in February 2008.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The learning objectives of the site are clear. GAVRT teaches students to use radio astronomy; to control a huge antenna, and to collect science data from objects in the universe at which the antenna is pointed. Teachers must attend training to learn about radio astronomy prior to actually getting to participate in the project. GAVRT supports teachers and students before, during, and after
their on-line experience with the radio telescope, maintaining personal contact as well as providing teaching materials and technical support. The GAVRT education delivery model offers three options for participation: Pre-designed Modules, such as Jupiter
Quest; Special Projects, such as the CassiniJupiter Microwave
Observing Campaign, whereby GAVRT observations contributed to new discoveries about the radiation belts of Jupiter
derived from measurements made by the Cassini spacecraft and with ground-based radio telescopes; and Contributed Projects submitted by teacherstudent teams and selected through a peer review process.
The activities in JupiterQuest could be reordered. Activity 3 (the straw model) is a concrete model that allows younger students to learn about contour mapping of space objects from radio waves. It also provides an excellent beginning for the more abstract two dimensional contour mapping activity (Activity 1) and the final most abstract activity the using of Excel to produce the contour map (Activity 2).
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The site itself is easy to use. However, some activities like the use of Excel for producing a contour map from raw data would be difficult without some prior experiences.
The website provides links to major navigational elements at the top and bottom of each page and a side bar menu to all main features. Live links and additional information are highlighted in blue for quick recognition.
The site is vast. There is no search box available. The last update for main pages on the menu ranges from 2003 to three months ago (Feb. 2008). We wonder how much of the GAVRT Project is currently being pursued.