Learning by Doing: Computational Science

Fun Simulations and Models for Inquiry-Based Learning!
Computational science can help students in visualizing concepts The Computational Science-Learning By Doing, web seminar, produced in collaboration with the National Science Digital Library (NSDL) and the Computational Science Education Reference Desk (CSERD), was held on Tuesday, December 19, 2006, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. The presenters were Patricia Jacobs and Bethany Hudnutt who work directly with the Shodor Education Foundation, a branch of CSERD.

The presentation focused on examples of how computational science can be integrated into curriculum as a way of providing hands-on simulations and models into the classroom. CSERD is the NSDL Pathways Portal for resources for Computational Science for grades 3-12 as well as a resource for higher education.

The session started with a general overview of the NSTA Web Seminar tools and how they can be used to facilitate interaction between the participants and the presenters. Twenty-six participants were present in addition to the presenters, the NSDL moderator, and the NSTA staff. Participating educators represented the states of California, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Computer models can help people find solutions to problems Patricia Jacobs started the presentation with an overview of computational science with examples of how to use the online simulations like those found in CSERD. These activities are inquiry-based and provide a basis for using interactive tools to approach problem solving and data analysis for students in a fun and dynamic way. Participants learned about different examples of simulations and models that helped to illustrate this while interacting with the presenter by stamping on the screen with their online tools. Bethany Hudnutt introduced the idea that pattern recognition and characterization are key elements of modern science and mathematic research and how these skills are important for today's students to develop. The models presented in the seminar provide students with practice at identifying patterns and practical exercises in how teachers can integrate technology in their teaching. Hudnutt then demonstrated a model interactive entitled, Fire!! as a more in-depth example. This model simulates a forest fire and the probability of adjacent trees catching on fire. Participants then had a first-hand view of trying the simulation on their own.

Using such resources provide opportunities to incorporate hands-on activities for students to explore on their own and to integrate math and science in curricula. Ms. Hudnutt concluded by pointing out how these resources can be used for graphing, gathering data, experimental design, and more-simply limited by the creativity of the educator that uses them. All participants received a copy of NSTA's SciGuide on Effects of Oceans on Weather and Climate, grades 9-12.

Here are some comments provided by the participants at the end of the Web Seminar:

  • "I learned and relearned some things about probability and how to do interactive lessons combining math and science."
  • "I like to use math in my science class whenever possible. This seminar gave me more tools in this regard."
  • "The integration of math and science is always important. Real world situations! The use of the website interactive was great!"
  • "I was unaware of the existence of the excellent interactives presented. They may prove helpful in teaching my children some of the concepts."

Thanks to the participants and the presenters for the learning opportunity, the interactions, and a job well done!

Web Seminar: Learning by Doing: Computational Science - Resources

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