Earth Exploration Toolbook

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Tamara Shapiro Ledley TERC
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The Earth Exploration Toolbook (EET) provides step-by-step instructions for using Earth science datasets and software tools in educational settings. Each chapter of the EET walks users through an example--a case study in which the user accesses data and uses analysis tools to explore issues or concepts in Earth system science. In each chapter, users produce and analyze maps, graphs, images, or other data products.
GSA Poster (Acrobat (PDF) 673kB Oct27 03)

Learning Goals


Higher Order Thinking Skills:

The activities promote critical analysis of data and the drawing of conclusions about the Earth system from that data.

Other Skills:

Other skills that are developed include the development of the ability to access each of the datasets that are described and the ability to use the data analysis tools needed to draw meaningful conclusions from the data.


Instructional Level:

The 5 chapters currently available in the Earth Exploration Toolbook vary in their instructional level. Each chapter clearly states in the Educator Information what level it is appropriate for. The full set of chapters cover the grade ranges from 5-16.

Skills Needed:

In most cases, the students must have reached the level to which they can think critically about data, once given guidance on how to access the data and how to use the data analysis tools. Each chapter gives this guidance and indicates the level for which the chapter is appropriate.

Role of Activity in a Course:

Teachers will be encouraged to integrate the use of an EET chapter into the course they are teaching. Depending on the grade level, a chapter could be used as an independent activity that invokes interest and curiosity, or it could be the centerpiece of an extended area of study, and can be expanded beyond the case study described in the chapter.

Data, Tools and Logistics

Required Tools:

Each chapter features a specific tool along with an Earth science dataset. The chapter gives detailed instructions on how to use the tool to conduct the activity being featured. To go beyond the tasks outlined in the chapter, varying amounts of training might be needed. See individual chapters for details.

Logistical Challenges:

Each chapter depends to varying extents on having Internet access. See individual chapters for specific information on the Earth science dataset and tool being featured.


Evaluation Goals:

We would like to know if the concepts identified on each chapter's Educator Information page are effectively conveyed to the students. Teachers can compare the results of students' efforts with the sample output of the activity, which appears in the Educator information, to see if t students have successfully accessed and analyzed the data.

Evaluation Techniques:

We are in a testing phase now.


Chapters in the EET are similar to recipes in a cookbook-each chapter walks the user through gathering the necessary "ingredients" and putting them together in a specific way to produce a map, image, graph, or other data product. The EET is useful to many different audiences.

Teachers can...
·learn techniques for accessing, interpreting, and analyzing Earth science datasets.
·get authentic practice using software tools to explore data, so they can facilitate students' explorations.
·enable students to tap into the wealth of satellite imagery, GIS-based maps, and tabular data available over the Internet.
·meet national and local science education standards for analyzing data and designing experiments.
·assign individuals or groups of students to complete a chapter and present their findings.

Students can...
·learn to use software tools to explore and interpret datasets, so they can understand the changing status of our planet.
·learn techniques of analyzing satellite data and creating graphics for research projects or science fairs.
·investigate human-induced change across our globe.
·examine scientific data for evidence of global warming.

Researchers can...
·learn about data analysis tools and techniques, and see examples of using them in case studies.
·assess the suitability of a tool or dataset to answer specific questions.
·use an EET chapter as a tutorial to get started using a new tool or dataset.

Tools Developers and Data Providers...
·will eventually be able to contribute new chapters that feature the use of their own data or tools.
·can increase educators' and students' awareness of and ability to use their data, ultimately resulting in an increased public demand for Earth science data and tools.

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