Research Study for Visualization as a Tool in Informal Science Education at Lake Tahoe (UC Davis, TERC)

May 24th, 2013 | EVALUATION

A research study was conducted to help inform UC Davis's Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) about the greater Lake Tahoe area community's perceived value of the center and two 3D visualizations included as part of their guided tour of the center. Research questions focused on how various local groups perceived the center, how TERC can better engage locals and tourists alike, the potential for the current 3D visualizations (Lake Tahoe, Earthquakes) for impacting attitudes and behaviors about the Lake and how the Lake Tahoe 3D visualization impacted middle school students during a school visit in terms of cognitive learning and being inspired to learn more about environmental issues facing the Lake Tahoe watershed. A series of 9 focus groups with a variety of audiences, including docents, 6th grade students, high school students, college students, tourists, Tahoe homeowners, local environmental agency staff, and Spanish-speaking residents (total n = 98). Additionally, a quasi-experimental study with local 6th-grade students, half of whom experienced a guided tour including the 3-D visualization and a control group who got the tour but without the tour (total n=246). Findings suggest that there is potential for TERC to engage local communities more purposefully. Main findings include a statistically significant difference on 9 of 13 self-reported knowledge gain items among middle students who viewed the visualization as part of their trip, compared to a control group who did not. Additionally, those who saw the visualization were more likely to agree that Lake Tahoe is getting dirtier each year, while those who didn't see the visualization were more likely to say they didn't know. More than half of those who saw it said it changed the way they thought about the lake, most likely because they learned something new. The findings have implications for the field in understanding the potential for 3D visualization technology to impact STEM-related outcomes among students and tours. Further research would be useful, and is planned, to examine how the visualization can be modified to maximize outcomes. A literature review focused on 3D visualization in science learning and immersive environments is included in the study. The appendix of this report includes the student survey used in this study.



Team Members

Steven Yalowitz, Evaluator, Institute for Learning Innovation
University of California Davis, Contributor


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 0755578
Funding Amount: 73697

Related URLs

Planning Grant to Support the Development of the Project "Visualization as a Tool in Informal Science Education at Lake Tahoe"


Audience: Adults | Evaluators | General Public | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Education and learning science | Geoscience and geography
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Literature Review | Research Products | Summative | Survey
Environment Type: Community Outreach Programs | Exhibitions | Games | Simulations | Interactives | Media and Technology | Museum and Science Center Exhibits | Public Programs