The goal of the project is to encourage students to become active participants in the scientific inquiry process by collecting and analyzing data about wildlife and natural habitats before, during, and after visits to the Tallahassee Museum. The purpose of study and its participation requirements will be explained to students during a class presentation. Students will be given a “parental permission form” to take home (see below). Once permission is granted, the student will be given an “Assent Form for Minors.” All questions will be answered by the researchers prior to student participation.

Research methods to be used in this project include pre-visit and post-visit surveys, and observation sessions of museum and classroom activities. Pre-visit and post-visit surveys will be used to assess the students’ experiences with scientific inquiry and the nature of science. Students will be asked to complete surveys before and after their visits, and the results used to assess the educational impact of the project on student learning experiences pertaining to scientific inquiries and the nature of science. Observation sessions in the museum and schools will measure levels of student engagement (e.g., time spent using the handheld computers while visiting the exhibits), the ability of students to effectively and efficiently learn to operate the interfaces, and general levels of satisfaction with the developed systems.

The records of this study will be kept private and confidential to the fullest extent permitted by law. Published reports will not include any information that would make it possible to identify a student. Research records will be stored securely and only researchers will have access to the records, which will be destroyed one year after the end of the project (July 2014).

Excerpt from the permission form:

I’d like to invite you to participate in this study as you learn about the natural habitats and wildlife at the Tallahassee Museum, before and after visiting the museum. If you choose to participate, we will observe your class sessions in school and at the museum; with your permission, these observations may be videotaped. We will also ask you to complete three questionnaires before and after the unit. Many of the questions will ask for your own ideas, and there are no right or wrong answers. Your participation is completely voluntary, and you can withdraw from the study at any time; there is no penalty if you do not wish to participate (it will not affect your grade in any way). If you wish to participate but do not wish to be videotaped, you can tell us at any time and we will not videotape you. All information that we collect will be kept confidential to the extent allowed by law, and your name will not be used at any time. There are no risks or benefits from your participation in this study, and your participation in this study will enable us to improve science education for students in the future.

If you are willing to participate, please take this parent permission slip home to your parent or guardian. If they say it is OK for you to participate in this study, please return the signed permission slip. I will then ask you to sign an assent form that will let me know that you want to participate in this study. You will only be included in this study if both forms are signed.