Learning Science Through Guided Discovery: Liquid Water and Molecular Networks

July 15th, 1992 - June 30th, 1997 | PROJECT

In every drop of water, down at the scale of atoms and molecules, there is a world that can fascinate anyone - ranging from a non-verbal young science student to an ardent science-phobe. The objective of Learning Science Through Guided Discovery: Liquid Water & Molecular Networks is to use advanced technology to provide a window into this submicroscopic world, and thereby allow students to discover by themselves a new world. We are developing a coordinated two-fold approach in which a cycle of hands-on activities, games, and experimentation is followed by a cycle of computer simulations employing the full power of computer animation to "ZOOM" into the depths of his or her newly- discovered world, an interactive experience surpassing that of an OMNIMAX theater. Pairing laboratory experiments with corresponding simulations challenges students to understand multiple representations of concepts. Answers to student questions, resolution of student misconceptions, and eventual personalized student discoveries are all guided by a clear set of "cues" which we build into the computer display. Moreover, the ability to visualize "real-time" dynamic motions allows for student-controlled animated graphic simulations on the molecular scale and interactive guided lessons superior to those afforded by even the most artful of existing texts. While our general approach could be applied to a variety of topics, we have chosen to focus first on water; later we will test the generality of the approach by exploring macromolecules such as proteins and DNA. The simulation sofware we have been developing embodies a simple molecular interaction model but requires leading edge computing in order to (1) apply the model to large enough systems to yield simple and realistic behavior, and (2) animate the result in real time with advanced graphics. Our ultimate goal in this project is not only to help students learn science, but also to help them learn to think like research scientists. By looking at scientific knowledge as a set of useful models - models that are essentially temporary and will inevitably lead to better ones - they can see that science is not a set of facts, but a method for discovering patterns and predictability in an otherwise disordered and unpredictable world. Through mastery of the simulation software, students will gain the self-confidence to embark on their own missions of discovery.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Team Members

H. Eugene Stanley, Principal Investigator, Boston University


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 9253407
Funding Amount: 1778805


Audience: Museum | ISE Professionals | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Chemistry | Life science | Nature of science
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Games | Simulations | Interactives | Media and Technology