1. Kristin Pederson
  2. STEM Director, Project Development & Communication
  3. When Whales Walked: Journeys in Deep Time
  4. TBD
  5. Twin Cities PBS, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Channel
  1. Amy Bolton
  2. Manager, Deep Time Education and Outreach
  3. When Whales Walked: Journeys in Deep Time
  4. TBD
  5. National Museum of Natural History
  1. Michael Rosenfeld
  2. VP of National Productions
  3. When Whales Walked: Journeys in Deep Time
  4. TBD
  5. Twin Cities PBS
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Kristin Pederson

    Kristin Pederson

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 09:52 a.m.

    Greetings from Twin Cities PBS and the Smithsonian Natural Museum of Natural History! We are excited to participate in the 2019 NSF STEM for All Video Showcase, and to share When Whales Walked: Journeys in Deep Time. This project (formerly titled Lineage) is a comprehensive educational media and outreach initiative that will engage families in learning about deep time and evolution, and will help audiences come to newfound understandings of the connections between the past, present, and future of life on Earth.


    This multi-platform initiative centers around a two-hour documentary, When Whales Walked: Journeys in Deep Time, which premieres on PBS stations nationwide and is simulcast on the Smithsonian Network on June 19, 2019.  Additional project components include a virtual reality (VR) game which allows players to become virtual paleontologists; hands-on programming at the NMNH which features standards-aligned activities and a Family Fossil Festival; and a national outreach initiative which provides museum educators nationwide with the professional development and resources they need to integrate When Whales Walked into their institutions and communities. A robust research and evaluation project seeks to explore the strategic impacts of intergenerational co-play with physical vs virtual artifacts, and will inform ongoing innovation in the free choice learning space


    Together, the project partners have co-designed a series of dynamic STEM learning experiences that harness the powerful reach of public media, leverage the Smithsonian's world-class collections and programming expertise, and capitalize on the power of immersive technologies. All project components work in concert to promote STEM learning and engagement, encourage scientific thinking and inquiry, and support family learning. We hope that When Whales Walked connects media-makers, thought leaders, educators, researchers and families, and look forward to your questions and comments!

  • May 13, 2019 | 11:21 a.m.

    I look forward to the series. I'm curious, what museum locations will be involved in the VR gaming and other resources? How will you be tracking the impact of those resources on learning?

  • Icon for: Kristin Pederson

    Kristin Pederson

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 06:36 p.m.

    Hi Julia—

    Thanks for your question! To select the museums who will participate in the first phase of our national outreach initiative, co-PIs Amy Bolton and Kristin Pederson worked with a team of educators at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) colleagues to issue an RFP to the Smithsonian Museum Affiliate network. We asked applicants to name a smaller institution with whom they would partner to implement When Whales Walked outreach programming, which will employ hands-on activities, the VR game and a 20-minute version of the film that focuses specifically on evolution of whales. We received a wealth of worthy applicants who wish to build capacity around paleontology and deep time education, so the selection process was challenging! We ultimately named the following institutions/partner organizations, all of whom will specifically work to reach rural and/or underserved children and families:

    • The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science/The Farmington Library;
    • The University of Nebraska State Museum/Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park; and
    • The McClung Museum at the University of Tennessee/Norwood Elementary School.

    Training for these institutions is scheduled for July 13 and 14 at the NMNH, and implementation of Family Fossil Festival programming at each site will begin in fall 2019. To further increase the reach of the When Whales Walked initiative, all resource will be made available for formal and informal educators in the following ways:

    • The 3D fossil scans (used to create the fossil-based activities) will be hosted on Smithsonian X 3D (www.3d.si.edu), which makes digitized scans of SI's artifacts available to educators and the public. The site's core audience is K-12 teachers whose students can use the SIx3D viewer to explore and manipulate objects from the Smithsonian collection, or print 3D replicas from the raw data sets and create inventions of their own design.
    • Complete digital kits for the six fossil-based activities, including signage and facilitator instruction, will also be freely available on Smithsonian X 3D, so other museums and science centers can replicate and implement the experiences in their own institutions.
    • Clips from the film, related learning resources, 3-D fossil scans and the VR game will be made available on PBS LearningMedia, reaching over 1.8 million educators.

     Finally, TPT and SI will host a full-day, hands-on workshop prior to an annual meeting of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) in 2020, during which the Project Team will share best practices on creating and facilitating STEM-focused family learning experiences, demonstrate the project's fossil-based activities as examples, and share results of the project's research effort. Meals and networking opportunities will be provided, and a one- night hotel stay will be covered by the project, for 25 museum professionals who will bring this knowledge back to their own diverse institutions. Research and evaluation of these resources and programming will be led by Dr. Debbie Siegel of ILI and Jennifer Borland of Rockman et al; we look forward to sharing impact and outcomes at next year’s Showcase!

  • Icon for: Elysa Corin

    Elysa Corin

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 12:38 p.m.

    Great video, I enjoyed seeing the animals and fossils in their natural environments. Could you provide some more information about the research and evaluation exploring how children and parents are using hands on activities and VR to learn about deep time?  Are these results influencing the products you are creating, or the workshops for informal educators?  Thanks!

  • Icon for: Jennifer Borland

    Jennifer Borland

    Senior Research Associate
    May 14, 2019 | 10:45 a.m.

    The evaluation team has been gathering and sharing feedback from the target audience (both adult and youth) for the film, as well as the hands-on and VR activities.  In the first year of the project, there were a series of focus groups held with adults with children ages 6-12 - these focus groups were held in four geographically distinct areas of the US and were inclusive of diverse individuals including evolution believers, as well as those who were more skeptical and/or leaning toward disbelief or unsure what to believe. The evaluation team was also able to engage with a subset of this group to reflect on a written treatment for the film and, more recently, was able to re-engage focus group participants in the process of viewing a rough cut of a segment of the film with their children and providing feedback.  Evaluators have observed sessions wherein the hands-on activity and VR game have been tested, and look forward to diving into evaluation and research efforts designed to learn more about these experiences,  as well as the film, this summer. 

  • Icon for: Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein

    Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein

    Researcher
    May 17, 2019 | 11:32 a.m.

    This project is really exciting and I can't wait to hear more about the results. I'm curious if you'll have the opportunity to talk to people who engage in more than one component (e.g. film and hands-on museum experience) and how those experiences might interact.

  • Icon for: Jennifer Borland

    Jennifer Borland

    Senior Research Associate
    May 17, 2019 | 02:33 p.m.

    While the research will focus on the impacts of the film, hands-on activity, and VR game in a more controlled and therefore isolated way, the evaluation team will have the ability to explore the impacts of multiple touch-points for participants. As part of the evaluation, we plan to explore the impacts of watching either a short version of the film or the entire film on both the hands-on activity and VR gameplay experiences. We're particularly curious about whether the viewing experience can provide different ways for parents and children to talk about the experiences they are having as they play...if it gives them a better foundational understanding of what they are doing, and more confidence and tools to wrangle with concepts that are conceptually more challenging. We're excited to start in on this part of the project later this year, and look forward to sharing out findings with the field!

  • Icon for: William Spitzer

    William Spitzer

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 02:24 p.m.

    The footage and stories for this documentary look great, a really interesting way to pull together some different aspects of paleontology and natural history into a unified story. It sounds like it is just about to launch next month, so I am looking forward to seeing it.

    It would be helpful to hear more about the specific learning goals for the documentary and associated activities. What specific concepts are you focusing on, and how are they connected with what we know about gaps in public understanding? It sounds like there is a focus on "deep time" as one of the concept -- what do we know about how people understand this concept, what do we know about how to advance understanding, and what do we need to find out?

    Thanks,
    Billy

  • Icon for: Amy Bolton

    Amy Bolton

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 11:06 a.m.

    Hi Billy,

    Thanks for your clarifying question about the learning goals. In the activities, we have a number of learning goals: (1) engaging in scientific practices that relate to paleontology, and an increased understanding that (2) all things have a shared, common ancestor, (3) related things have shared, derived characteristics, (4) paleontologists use physical traits in fossils to show relationships, and (5) a phylogenetic tree is a representation of evolutionary relationships. 

    More specifically, research has demonstrated that understanding evolution and deep time relationships are particularly challenging topics even for museum visitors who typically express more interest and awareness of science than the general public (MacFadden, et. al., 2007). The learning products (e.g. video, hands-on activities and virtual reality experience) developed through the When Whales Walked project provide a rich context in which to further understand children and their caregivers’ abilities to understand and effectively engage with the concepts and scientific practices around paleobiology, evolutionary thinking, and deep time. Prior research suggests that museum learning experiences have the ability to support children’s recognition and articulation of natural selection and common decent (Evans & Lane, 2011). In addition, recently developed socially immersive media in the form of DeepTree collaborative tabletop exhibits has demonstrated the learning value of visualizing relational concepts in a dynamic interface (Davis et.al, 2016; Horn et.al. 2016). These findings in particular suggest that the ability of technology to support visualization of how complex relationships between species change over time, is a powerful strategy to support evolutionary thinking. Research in museums has also suggested that learning is supported through conversations, joint attention, and physical engagement with elements in the learning environment (Crowley et.al, 2001; Eberbach and Crowley, 2005; Falk and Dirrking, 2000). However, when families encounter concepts that are unfamiliar to both adults and children, parents and caregivers may improvise in their attempts to address children’s questions. Museums have the opportunity to meet a broader range of the learning needs of their family visitors through the creation and systematic research of the role of digital collections and emerging technologies.

  • Icon for: William Spitzer

    William Spitzer

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2019 | 10:50 a.m.

    Amy, thanks so much for sharing your learning goals and all the research behind them, this is really helpful!

  • Icon for: Debbie Siegel

    Debbie Siegel

    Researcher
    May 14, 2019 | 07:33 p.m.

    Building off of Amy's comment: 

     

    Critical to this question about learning goals is sharing the target audiences, both public and professional, for the project. This includes general audiences of all ages who will watch the television broadcast on PBS, and families with children who will participate in the family learning activities at the exhibition (hands-on activities and Virtual Reality experience), as well Family Fossil Festivals. The project design also includes targeted outreach to rural populations who are underserved in science enrichment opportunities, and the museum professionals and other informal science educators with whom they work. However, in this response we focus on public audienes

     

    Referring to the general audiences viewing the PBS program:

    General audiences will increase their understanding of:

    • Relevance of deep time to present time, and how Earth’s past, present, and future are connected through biological and geological processes.
    • Evolution, extinction and/or ecosystem change over time as evidenced in the fossil record, and how these concepts are important in today’s changing world.
    • Evolution as an incremental, non-linear process that generates the diversity of life.
    • Scientific research as a process of asking questions, searching for answers, and thinking critically, with an emphasis on the methods of paleo-biology.
    • Ways in which various scientific disciplines work together to illuminate understanding of Earth’s past and the evolutionary processes that have resulted in the species seen today.
    • Complexities of speciation as evidenced through the lineages of the featured animals, and the fact that the extinction of a single species can represent the end of an entire lineage and an irreplaceable history many millions of years old.

     

    The Lineage exhibition also provides a rich context in which to understand children and their caregivers’ abilities to understand concepts and scientific practices around paleontology, evolutionary thinking, and deep time. With regard to families who participate in the Lineage learning activities, children and their caregivers will be better able to

    • Use science skills, such as observing, comparing, analyzing, inferring; and discussing challenging science-related topics, including how species evolve over time.
    • Develop a positive identity with science such that they recognize its relevance to their own lives and feel motivated to seek out new science learning activities.
    • Come to see their families as a learning unit and enjoy participating in learning activities together. Parents and caregivers specifically will feel more comfortable in their ability to support science learning at home, and see the value in learning together as a family. 

    In terms of what we know about how people understand these concepts, what might help advance their understanding, and how learning activities such as a film, exhibition, etc. can be designed to support understanding, research demonstrates that evolution and deep time relationships are particularly challenging topics, even for adult museum visitors to natural history museums, who typically express more interest and awareness than the general public, in science in general, and paleontology, in particular (MacFadden B.J., Dunckel, B.A., Ellis, S., Dierking, L.D., Abraham-Silver, L. Kisiel, J. & Koke, J. 2007. Natural history museum visitors’ understanding of evolution. Bioscience, 57 (10: 875-882). In terms of deep time specifically, key points of misunderstanding include:

     

    • Widespread difficulty understanding events or objects at scales that are very different from those they experience with their senses.
    • People tend to have a poor understanding of large numbers, for example, not grasping the powers of 10, and the relationship among numbers such as 1, 1,000, and 1,000,000. People also struggle to distinguish between millions and billions.
    • People are confused when attempting to understand the evidence of deep time provided by vertical geological strata, while also interpreting evolutionary events on a horizontal time line.
    • Some religious beliefs promote views that are counter to the scientific concept of deep time. For example “Young Earth” creationists believe Earth is only a few thousand years old.

     

    However, there is evidence that out of school experiences can be powerful and lead to new or

    more developed understandings of scale, including an appreciation of deep time. Recommendations for making these concepts more accessible include:

    • Introducing learners to both relative and absolute conceptions of deep time is important; that is, events in relation to each other on a time line, and the overall scale of geological time in millions of years.
    • Understanding deep time is part of a wider cognitive development; the development of an understanding of scale. Learning experiences should move from the concrete to the abstract via a set of skills for comparison and relating items together.
    • In order to understand the huge scale of deep time, learners need to identify reference points, ‘conceptual anchors’ in Earth’s history.

     

    In terms of families, prior research suggests that museum learning experiences have the ability to support children’s recognition and articulation of natural selection and common decent (Evans & Lane, 2011; Evans et al., 2010; Legare, Lane, & Evans, 2013; Palmquist, Danter & Yalowitz, 2011). In addition, recently developed socially immersive media in the form of DeepTree collaborative table top exhibits has demonstrated the learning value of visualizing family trees in a dynamic interface (Davis et.al, 2016; Horn et.al. 2016). In particular, these findings suggest that the ability of technology to support visualization of how complex relationships between species change over time, is a powerful strategy to support evolutionary thinking. Research in museums has also suggested that learning is supported through conversations, joint attention, and physical engagement with elements in the learning environment (Crowley et.al, 2001; Eberbach and Crowley, 2005; Falk and Dierking, 2018).

     

    The project's primary exhibition innovation is its exploration of new learning designs for families, including the use of cutting-edge technologies such as the VR experience and collaborative learning experiences that advance science knowledge and inquiry-based learning. The resulting research, which will investigate how intergenerational co-play between children and adults with physical hands-on experiences, compared to virtual artifacts, influences STEM learning and engagement, will lead to critical strategic impacts for the field, building knowledge about "what works," "why," and "how," informing ongoing innovation in the free choice learning space.

     

    We would love to hear your thoughts, questions, and considerations as we move forward with this exciting project. 

  • Icon for: William Spitzer

    William Spitzer

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2019 | 10:53 a.m.

    Debbie, thanks for all the additional detail on target audiences and associated learning goals, they really give a sense of how you are approaching the project with clear intentions.

  • Icon for: Margaret Glass

    Margaret Glass

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 07:57 p.m.

    Hi,

    Great video - and thanks for the background about your research approach for this project.

    I also appreciate the attention you give to training and professional learning opportunities for the staff of the museums that will participate in this initiative. You have picked some great partner organizations that can have direct reach to your target audience of rural and underserved families. How are you thinking about the continued support for these museum staff – both now and in future expansion? Are there formative assessment techniques that might be helpful for museum facilitators to mediate interactions they see in their spaces? Will the participating museum professionals continue to be connected as expansion continues?

    Looking forward to learning more!

    Margaret 

  • Icon for: Jennifer Borland

    Jennifer Borland

    Senior Research Associate
    May 14, 2019 | 09:22 p.m.

    Greetings Margaret - Great question!  I'll let some of the other project partners share more about the specific plans for training and supporting the museum staff during the lifetime of this project and beyond, but I wanted to note that I share your appreciation for the project's goal of working with informal science ed professionals to broaden the reach of the resources and activities that are being developed--this outreach is a key factor of the project design that will hopefully lead to sustained impacts beyond the lifetime of the grant. 

    The external evaluation team plans to gather feedback from museum/remote ISE facilitators following the initial training sessions and as they implement programming at remote sites. The goals of these evaluative efforts are to 1) ensure timely feedback to project stakeholders to keep them informed about ways they can best support remote facilitation efforts and 2) better understand the resulting impacts on these ISE professionals and the communities they serve. We will also gather feedback on what works well during the implementation phase and what, if anything, could be enhanced in future initiatives of this nature. I'm looking forward to the things we'll be able to learn and share out with the rest of the ISE community!

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Margaret Glass
  • Icon for: Margaret Glass

    Margaret Glass

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2019 | 11:54 a.m.

    Hi Jennifer,

    Thanks for the additional details. I love the idea of additional feedback from the remote facilitation sites. I look forward to following the project!

    Margaret

  • Icon for: Amy Bolton

    Amy Bolton

    Co-Presenter
    May 16, 2019 | 10:44 p.m.

    Hi Margaret,

    I thought I would add to Jennifer's response and talk about how we are staying connected to our partner institutions. The Smithsonian Institution has an Affiliates program (see link: https://affiliations.si.edu/) and the partner organizations are part of that program. Through this existing relationship we will be able to follow up on how the program impacted their museum and discuss future opportunities to collaborate. The Smithsonian Affiliates programs is a great way for us to reach out to communities and diverse audiences across the country. It allows us to meet people where they are--literally and figuratively. We enjoy the opportunity to learn from them as well and better understand the needs and interests of a multitude of audiences. 

    Amy 

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Margaret Glass
  • Icon for: Jan Heiderer

    Jan Heiderer

    Communications Coordinator, GLOBE Implementation Office
    May 14, 2019 | 11:09 p.m.

    Hi There. No questions really! The film did a great job of answering all my question just as they emerged. Just want to say: beautiful video! I really enjoyed it.

  • Icon for: Michael Rosenfeld

    Michael Rosenfeld

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 10:30 a.m.

    Hi Jan, thank you for watching and commenting. I’m glad the video could give you a complete sense of the project. Stay tuned next year for another video detailing results of the research and evaluation components that will take place later this year and into 2020. 

  • May 15, 2019 | 01:00 p.m.

    great project - looking forward to more from the team

     

  • Icon for: Michael Rosenfeld

    Michael Rosenfeld

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 06:07 p.m.

    Thank you, Rebecca!

  • May 15, 2019 | 04:50 p.m.

    Great video and exciting project! Thank you.  I like many other geoscientists have long been flummoxed by the fact that, in spite of wonderful programming such as this, we are plagued by low enrollments and a general lack of understanding about what kinds of jobs are available to people in this STEM realm.  Are there ways to gauge the impact that your project might have on the educational trajectories of middle and high school students?  Our STEMSEAS project aims to get early-stage STEM-interested students out to sea to discover previously unknown futures, but I am also keenly interested in interventions that might tackle the pipeline disconnect upstream.  

  • Icon for: Kristin Pederson

    Kristin Pederson

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2019 | 01:04 p.m.

    Hi Jonathan.

    Thanks for your question! Unfortunately, our "When Whales Walked" project does not have funding earmarked for longitudinal research around how/if students are inspired to seek STEM educational and career pathways. However, we at Twin Cities PBS ALWAYS share that same concern and curiosity. Although it is a different project, we have started to tackle that challenge with another NSF-supported initiative called "SciGirls Strategies." This project focuses on empowering CTE/STEM instructors, counselors and administrators at the high school level with gender equitable teaching strategies (or GETS). These approaches give educators the tools they need to recruit and retain girls in high school CTE/STEM classes, with an eye toward post-secondary education and career pathways. If this sounds interesting, you can learn more about the programming at  http://www.scigirlsconnect.org/evaluations/ (scroll down to the SciGirls Strategies section).

     

    Additionally, on the same site you will find a wealth of role model videos that SciGirls has produced. These short-form profiles feature relatable and interesting STEM professionals sharing about their careers, as well as about their path to achieving STEM success. As per our research, these women also talk about their hobbies, families, pets and other interests, underscoring that they have rich lives outside of their STEM pursuits. We've even produced a series of these role model videos in Spanish, which feature Latina STEM professionals. These videos have been instrumental in helping both kids AND parents understand what a STEM career really entails and offers. If interested, check them out at http://www.scigirlsconnect.org/resource_topic/role-model-profiles/. We have also entered SciGirls videos into this Showcase.

    I know this answer veers away from the "When Whales Walked" project, but I hope you find it helpful. Thanks, Jonathan!

     

  • Icon for: Amy Bolton

    Amy Bolton

    Co-Presenter
    May 16, 2019 | 10:57 p.m.

    Hi Jonathan,

    Adding to Kristin's response--and adding my enthusiasm for the SciGirls project--we are also concerned at the Smithsonian about the future of people entering into STEM fields, especially underrepresented audiences. What I appreciate about When Whales Walked, is the emphasis on showing a wide variety of careers in science, what doing science really means, and what scientists look like. It must be difficult for students to imagine a career in science if they don't see scientists who look like them or if they have a very limited image of how science is done. This program, I think, helps to give a wider perspective on science, which I think is an important place to start. 

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.