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Abstract Detail

Teaching Section

Wandersee, James H. [1], Clary, Renee M. [2].

Multisensory Learning about Stromatolites: Investigating the Value Added by Field Trips and Fossil Experiences.

Fossil stromatolites constitute the earliest and most pervasive record of life on Earth, according to NASA astrobiologists. Stromatolite fossils have been collected in many locations worldwide, including the US states of Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Cut and polished fossil specimens from these reefs are available commercially. Lester Park, located in rural Saratoga Springs, New York and home to almost .1 acre of exposed stromatolite fossils, is a small, privately donated, publicly owned, fossil display park managed by the State Museum of New York. It offers interpretive signage leading the visitor through a fossilized stromatolite (cyanobacterial) ocean reef bed formed about 490 mya. Here, stromatolites were first recognized, described, and interpreted in North America. This helped scientists understand significant environmental and ecological changes that have taken place on Earth through the ensuing half-billion years since the stromatolites of the Saratoga Reef were alive. Using a multisensory teaching approach means helping a student to learn through more than one of the senses. Most teaching in schools is done using either sight or hearing (Bradford, 2000). We conducted an on-site, qualitative, triangulated geobiological education research study to identify the unique multisensory learning opportunities and outcomes revealed by visitors. We found that the park’s stromatolite fossil reef display offers unique, natural, multisensory experiences and waypoint-specific mini-lessons that can help students grapple with the concepts of prokaryotic life, evolution, and deep geologic time in more direct and unavoidable ways than a textbook or web site on the same subject. It has also not escaped our notice that our study's findings might be used as partial evidence to justify the unique educational value of field trips and purchased classroom fossil collections for biology, botany, and geology courses.

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1 - Louisiana State University, Dept. of Educational Theory, Policy, & Practice, Ph.D. Studies in Biology Education, 223 Peabody Hall, Baton Rouge, LA, 70803, USA
2 - Mississippi State University, Dept. of Geosciences, 301-B Hilbun Hall, Mississippi State, Mississippi, 39762, USA

field trips
fossil collections
multisensory learning

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 31
Location: Council Chambers/SUB
Date: Tuesday, July 29th, 2008
Time: 8:15 AM
Number: 31002
Abstract ID:58

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