Windows on Earth: Summative Evaluation Report

July 1st, 2010 | EVALUATION

PERG conducted the formative and summative evaluations of Windows on Earth, a project led by the Center for Earth and Space Science Education (CESSE) at TERC. The project included numerous partners and contributors who focused on the development of the Windows on Earth software, exhibit and website, as well as four museums who participated in the development and evaluation process: Boston's Museum of Science, (MOS), the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, (A&S), the St. Louis Science Center (SLSC), and the Montshire Museum of Science (MM) in Vermont. The project also coordinated some programming with the Challenger Centers. The museum exhibit consists of a component with a large screen and high quality images of the Earth, which simulates the view from the space station. Navigation tools include a joystick, zoom buttons, back to start button, and touch pad map, as well as buttons to enable visitors to add information about borders and cities, elevation, night-lights, and clouds. An information band at the bottom of the large screen provides some information about locations on the screen. Animations about Earth processes are also part of the software. There is some customization of content at different museums, such as where the back to start' button goes and higher resolution images around the home location. The WinEarth website allows viewers to follow the path of the actual International Space Station, to go anywhere' along the orbital paths, and to see photographs at different resolutions that have been taken from the Space Station. The website also compares photographs from the same sites taken 35 years apart, in 1973 and 2008, by Owen and Richard Garriott, a father and son pair. In addition, there are links to other resources for educators and information about the museum exhibits. There are also ten brief animations, which display information about various Earth processes, such as the formation of the Great Lakes, the formation of the Hawaiian Islands, and the development of oxbow (U-shaped) lakes. The primary evaluation questions PERG addressed included: What is the impact of Windows on Earth museum exhibits, website, and activities on the knowledge, attitude and behavior of users related to: Spirit of exploration, Visual literacy, Earth literacy and Planetary stewardship How does the experience of Windows on Earth compare across the museums in terms of goal outcomes, visitor engagement, contextual factors, development process, and impact on each museum site? How do the different types of options for visitors/users compare? What are the key benefits and challenges of implementing the project within different settings? Evaluators conducted observations and interviews with almost 150 visitors at three of the four museums. (Some additional informal interviews were conducted at Montshire near the end of the project). Visitors generally found the exhibit to be engaging and it stimulated much discussion among groups in the various museums. PERG evaluators also conducted a series of interactive interviews with website users; project staff hoped to make additional changes based on the data collected by the evaluators, to improve the ease of navigation and overall usability of the website. The Windows on Earth exhibit did appear to impact visitors (primarily) in two of the four areas originally cited as key goals: Visitors increased their knowledge of visual literacy as defined by the project team, and also experienced the "spirit of exploration" through visiting both familiar and unfamiliar sites on earth. The exhibit was generally successful in engaging a wide range of visitors, while the website was less effective, and needed further development. Finally, a professional development opportunity was provided to a group of educators through a workshop offered at the Challenger Center at Framingham State University, and some related activities were provided for students at some of the Challenger Centers.



Team Members

Judah Leblang, Evaluator, Lesley University
Joan Karp, Evaluator, Lesley University
TERC Inc, Contributor
Jodi Sandler, Evaluator, Lesley University


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 0515528
Funding Amount: 1780375

Related URLs

Windows on Earth


Audience: Adults | Elementary School Children (6-10) | Evaluators | Families | General Public | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Education and learning science | Geoscience and geography | Space science | Technology
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Summative
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Games | Simulations | Interactives | Media and Technology | Museum and Science Center Exhibits | Websites | Mobile Apps | Online Media