Virtual Sojourner Adaptation and Implementation
Introduction: My name is Jeff Tucker and I was a student teacher in Donna Shy's 5th Grade class at Bryant Elementary in the Seattle School District, Washington. Originally written by Richard Edgerton, Donna and I adapted Virtual Sojourner to meet the specific needs of our students. We implemented this unit in three weeks with 30 students in March of 1998. Due to time and management constraints, we made adaptations to Richard's unit in several areas:
We divided our students into eight teams of 3 or 4 students.
Instead of assigning different mission tasks to each team, each
team was responsible for all aspects of the mission. This allowed
us to involve the entire class instead of only 15 students. We
found it convenient to manage eight groups doing similar things.
This also allowed us to provide assistance to ESL and other
students with special needs.
Virtual Experiments: Due to time
and resource constraints, we were unable to physically create and
deliver experiments to the virtual Mars site. Wishing to engage
our students in the Inquiry process, student groups spent time
researching Mars, formulating questions of interest, adapting
questions in hypotheses, and brainstormed means of testing
hypotheses. Students were limited to transferring experimental
design knowledge from previous science units without physically
designing and delivering an experimental apparatus. It would have
been ideal to have completed the Inquiry cycle with data
gathering, hypothesis revision, and experiment redesigning.
Mars Mapping: Student groups had two opportunities to map a videotaped rockscape using polar graph paper. The first mapping lesson used a table with rocks where students could compare their mapped representation with the real thing. They only had the videotape for their second mapping experience as the second rockscape was on "Mars" (In the sub-basement). Students used protractors, rulers in determining scale and direction as they created their polar graph paper representations.
Computer Navigation: Once student groups finished their maps of the "Martian" rockscape, they decided where they wanted a Mars rover to go. They created a route and converted this route into a navigational program using Logo computer script. Before they submitted their navigational plans to me, they had the opportunity to test their Logo script plans on the computer in a simulation. The vector-like nature of Logo script was appropriate for our adaptation as our Virtual Sojourner was a remote control car that could literally turn on a dime.
Student Presentations: I made eight videotapes of the Virtual Sojourner rover following all eight navigational plans explicitly. Student groups were given a copy of their video and spent two hours developing their classroom presentations using the video, overheads, graphs, written reports. To receive credit, every member of each group had to present a significant portion of group information. This ensured the participation of all of my students regardless of language or other difficulty.
To see my detailed unit adaptation, click here.
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