The SciFair program is an Internet-based science communication fair. This supplemental education program has engaged seven to ten primarily underserved, rural or minority communities around the US annually since 2003. In 2005, a pilot site in Singapore was added. The SciFair program leverages the appeal of an online multi-user virtual environment to engage teens in exploring and communicating about science, in the hope of increasing scientific literacy. The virtual worlds created through each program reflect personal or group contexts for various science topics. A review of five sites offers a kaleidoscopic view of SciFair’s contexts within learning communities, and the apparent roles of scientific culture in these community projects. Programs are described and assessed based on educational context, cultural relevance of the selected topic, integration of content with other forms of expression, and the elements of scientific culture represented. This approach adds a new dimension to evaluation of SciFair programs.

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Student project virtual worlds as windows on scientific cultures in CTC scifair

Margaret Corbit   Cornell Theory Center, Research Outreach, Cornell University

Richard Bernstein   Cornell Theory Center, Research Outreach, Cornell University

Suzanne Kolodzie   Cornell Theory Center, Research Outreach, Cornell University

Cathy McIntyre   Cornell Theory Center, Research Outreach, Cornell University

The SciFair program is an Internet-based science communication fair. This supplemental education program has engaged seven to ten primarily underserved, rural or minority communities around the US annually since 2003. In 2005, a pilot site in Singapore was added. The SciFair program leverages the appeal of an online multi-user virtual environment to engage teens in exploring and communicating about science, in the hope of increasing scientific literacy. The virtual worlds created through each program reflect personal or group contexts for various science topics. A review of five sites offers a kaleidoscopic view of SciFair’s contexts within learning communities, and the apparent roles of scientific culture in these community projects. Programs are described and assessed based on educational context, cultural relevance of the selected topic, integration of content with other forms of expression, and the elements of scientific culture represented. This approach adds a new dimension to evaluation of SciFair programs.

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