Habitat Tracker will help students master the new “scientific inquiry and nature of science” benchmarks advocated by national science education reform efforts and mandated by Florida’s Next Generation Sunshine State Standards for Science. Approximately 1,500 students from rural and urban elementary schools in the Leon County, Gadsden County, and the Florida State University School districts will use Habitat Tracker to conduct scientific research through online and mobile technologies over the next three years.

The project is centered on the Nature of Science experiences and learning of fourth and fifth grade elementary students before, during, and after field trips to a local wildlife center — the Tallahassee Museum. Visits to the museum will be part of a three week intervention on scientific inquiry in which pre-visit planning and post-visit data analysis form essential parts of the inquiry experience. Supported through the use of online resources in the classroom, before and after the field trips, this intervention will help students gain experience planning and conducting scientific inquiries while making field trips an integral part of classroom learning.

Before visiting the museum, students will research the museum’s wildlife online, collaborating with students from other schools to develop research questions and determine what data they’ll need to answer their questions. At the museum, students will use handheld computers (iPads) to record data about wildlife behaviors in digital journals, uploading their observations into a shared database for use by other students online. Back in the classroom, students will return to the website to analyze data and answer their research questions.

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