Virtual Hall of Science (VHOS)
Eighty urban NY youth ages 10-18 are trained as exhibit designers, builders, active exhibit guides, and mentors. Acting as a mentoring/governing group, participants will staff the virtual space and encourage and support new visitors to explore STEM
The New York Hall of Science (NYHS), in partnership with the developers of Greater Southern Tier BOCES SciCentr program, will engage an ethnically and economically diverse group of young people in creating the Virtual Hall of Science (VHOS). This youth cohort will collaborate and work with science and education professionals to design, build, and staff a virtual science center while acquiring STEM knowledge and a range of ICT competencies. Participants will be trained as exhibit designers, builders, active exhibit guides, and mentors. Acting as a mentoring/governing group, participants will staff the virtual space and encourage and support new visitors to explore STEM activities. Two cohorts of 20 high school Explainers and 20 middle school students are directly impacted by this project, while hundreds of middle and high school youth are engaged through the online Virtual Worlds platform. Students receive 70 hours of training and are responsible for developing and launching the VHOS, training middle school youth, and creating a management plan. Students form teams, create interactive science exhibits, study interactive design, and use a variety of Web 2.0 tools for collaboration purposes. Finally, students beta test the prototype with families, other Explainers, and project staff before making it available to the public. Students build skills in six areas identified by International Society for Technology Education (ISTE) including creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration, research and information fluency, critical thinking, problem solving and decision making, digital citizenship, and technology operations concepts. VHOS will be designed for long-term sustainability through collaboration with state and regional cooperative service professional development programs. The evaluation will be conducted by the Center for Children and Technology at the Education Development Center Inc. (EDC) and will focus on the impact of the VHOS on Explainers and visitors, understanding of science concepts, and the development and articulation of ICT workforce skills by youth. A mixed-methods approach will be employed and include observations, interviews, participant blogs, science concept rubrics, visitor surveys, and pre-post questionnaires for both the formative and summative evaluation. It is anticipated that this project will advance the understanding of the effectiveness of virtual environments in building ICT skills and student understanding of workforce preparation.