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NOAA OED - SOS FY2006 Awardees
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Environmental Literacy Grants Program

Science On a Sphere Installation Cooperative Agreements: FY06

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Overview of Funding Announcement

In April 2006, NOAA's Office of Education (OEd) issued a request for applications from informal education institutions with interest in displaying NOAA’s Science On a Sphere. Awards were made as one-year cooperative agreements and were issued in FY06. Funded projects supported informal education institutions in incorporating data visualization technology and compatible environmental data products into public exhibits. The goal of this program was to build environmental literacy among the general public through increased use of NOAA or NOAA-related data and data products in informal education institutions.


The awards are summarized below. For more information regarding specific awards, please contact the Office of Education Grants Team.

Project Title


Total Project Funding


Bringing Knowledge of Planet Earth to a Wider Audience and Bringing a Diverse New Group to Careers in Science Teaching

Douglas Duncan, University of Colorado


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Envirosphere Educational Project Angela Turner, McWane Science Center


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The Global Decision Room

Brian P. Tonner, The Orlando Science Center


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Title: Bringing Knowledge of Planet Earth to a Wider Audience and Bringing a Diverse New Group to Careers in Science Teaching
Institution: University of Colorado
PI: Douglas Duncan
Abstract:  Science On a Sphere (SOS) at Fiske Planetarium will raise awareness and understanding of Earth system science for over 30,000 visitors per year, using student docents and newly-developed, tested pedagogy. SOS will enhance Fiske’s ability to engage 3,000 university students and 30,000 K-12 students and members of the public.

A student docent program will transform the traditionally passive experience of a planetarium visit into an interactive learning opportunity. The docents will be drawn from two sources: undergraduates who will be future science teachers, who we take from a selective CU program called “STEM-TP”, and Hispanic university and high school students taught by Fiske's planetarium manager Francisco Salas. Docents will talk with visitors and help them understand key science issues that affect the earth, leading to more informed decision-making.

Fiske will develop bilingual pedagogical material and new data sets, and share them with NOAA and SOS sites. To support the docents, and visiting students and teachers, Fiske Education Manager Traub-Metlay will lead development of explanatory materials that challenge visitors and provide context for what they are seeing. These will be translated into Spanish by Fiske Manager Salas. New data sets, contributed by faculty members, will expand the range of SOS, into space, adding solar interior models, the celestial sphere, and the cosmic background radiation from the Big Bang, along with new terrestrial data such as the worldwide distribution of forest fires.

SOS will become a focal point in Fiske's longstanding tradition of teacher workshops, which are often done in cooperation with the University of Colorado and NOAA scientists and highlight NOAA’s role monitoring the earth and sun. It also will be integrated with a small suite of hands-on exhibits we are installing that explain how observations can be made in infrared, ultraviolet, and X-rays in addition to visible light. These would complement SOS, which features multi-wavelength data. Fiske and its Boulder Colorado-area partners have raised $75,000 to cover the full cost of SOS hardware, and have formal institutional commitments to long-term program development. This award from NOAA will go into materials development, evaluation, and student pay.

Colorado communities are aware of NOAA’s important work and the nearby David SkaggsCenter , but security measures make it difficult to visit there. Fiske is much more accessible.  Fiske will improve the usefulness of all SOS sites by conducting formative evaluation to assess what kinds of SOS presentations work best with public and school audiences, giving feedback to NOAA and all SOS users.

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Title: Envirosphere Educational Project
Institution: McWane Science Center
PI: Angela Turner
Abstract: McWane ScienceCenter (McWSC) is a non-profit, interactive science museum committed to showing individuals how science and technology enrich our lives and help us solve problems. At McWSC, learning has become exciting, understandable and dynamic at a time when educational institutions are struggling to motivate students. McWane ScienceCenter ’s mission has touched over 2 million visitors including almost a million children and youth since opening eight years ago. McWSC has a goal of extending the power of experiential learning to as many people as possible, particularly those who would otherwise not be able to do so on their own.  McWane ScienceCenter continues to look for creative ways to offset the costs of exhibits and other operational expenses without compromising educational content for specific populations that can really benefit from what McWSC provides. This is why McWane ScienceCenter is interested in the Science on a Sphere (SOS) exhibit.

SOS will serve as the focal point for McWane’s environmental education initiative, the Envirosphere Educational Project (the Project). The Project will provide environmental education and workforce development programs for an estimated 200,000 people. This number includes the general public, school groups from across the region, and 2,500 children in low-income communities from across the state of Alabama. Grants from Alabama Power Foundation and Honda Corporation will provide the necessary funds for the 2,500 disadvantaged children to visit McWSC and participate in the Project. The Project’s goals will be enhanced by other McWSC exhibits, including a planned weather station, with a variety of weather instruments as well the ability to track the weather at McWSC in real time. These exhibit pieces will complement SOS data sets and messages about the environment. All visitors will have the opportunity to go to the SOS exhibit and participate in environmental education programs led by McWSC Education Staff. Each program corresponds to one of SOS data sets and to the Alabama Course of Study Standards for elementary and secondary schools. Visitors will be evaluated on-site at McWSC by McWane’s partners in the Department of Science and Technology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Evaluation of the Project will be conducted through surveys, interviews and touch poll stations in order to ascertain how effective the Project is in promoting environmental literacy. The intended outcomes of the Project are to make complex environmental science concepts more accessible to people of all ages; to provide educational opportunities to children who would otherwise not have access to this type of information; to partner with local and state academic institutions, school boards and municipalities to improve environmental science curricula and awareness; and to increase the visitor’s knowledge of and peak his interest in science and its related applications to life.

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Title: The Global Decision Room
Institution: The Orlando Science Center
PI: Brian P.Tonner
Abstract:  The Orlando Science Center has assembled a project team to create a unique environmental science learning tool: THE GLOBAL DECISION ROOM. Founded on, and enhancing, the Science On a Sphere (SOS) digital globe, the Global Decision Room is an interactive theatre that puts visitors in the role of being decision makers on behalf of the behavior of large populations on the planet. The results of global decisions relating to the environment are seen played out on SOS.

The interactive strategy that is created for the Global Decision Room will be flexible and well integrated into the SOS software platform, making it possible to design other educational story scenarios that can use the same system.

The Global Decision Room is designed as a multi-use, high impact, exciting content delivery platform. This proposal is based on a well developed initial educational premise, but the resulting construction of the Global Decision Room will be the perfect environment for other educational topics of interest to NOAA’s outreach strategy. As new datasets become available in the future, new interactive stories will be developed for the Global Decision Room.

The Orlando project brings with it significant additional funding from the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Orlando Utilities Commission, and the Florida Hydrogen Initiative, which will greatly leverage the funding from NOAA.

Partners in the project include a strong technical team from the University of Central Florida and the Florida Solar Energy Center, interactive digital media experts from the Institute for Simulation and Training, the creative design team “i.d.e.a.s.” located at Disney-MGM Studios, and the XhibitNet interactive multimedia design team.

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