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Web-based Tools for Educators: Outreach Activities of the Polar Radar for Ice Sheet Measurements (PRISM) Project

Braaten, D. A., Holvoet, J. F., Gogineni, S


The Radar Systems and Remote Sensing Laboratory at the University of Kansas (KU) has implemented extensive outreach activities focusing on Polar Regions as part of the Polar Radar for Ice Sheet Measurements (PRISM) project. The PRISM project is developing advanced intelligent remote sensing technology that involves radar systems, an autonomous rover, and communications systems to measure detailed ice sheet characteristics, and to determine bed conditions (frozen or wet) below active ice sheets in both Greenland and Antarctica. These measurements will provide a better understanding of the response of polar ice sheets to global climate change and the resulting impact the ice sheets will have on sea level rise. Many of the research and technological development aspects of the PRISM project, such as robotics, radar systems, climate change and exploration of harsh environments, can kindle an excitement and interest in students about science and technology. These topics form the core of our K-12 education and training outreach initiatives, which are designed to capture the imagination of young students, and prompt them to consider an educational path that will lead them to scientific or engineering careers. The K-12 PRISM outreach initiatives are being developed and implemented in a collaboration with the Advanced Learning Technology Program (ALTec) of the High Plains Regional Technology in Education Consortium (HPR*TEC). ALTec is associated with the KU School of Education, and is a well-established educational research center that develops and hosts web tools to enable teachers nationwide to network, collaborate, and share resources with other teachers. An example of an innovative and successful web interface developed by ALTec is called TrackStar. Teachers can use TrackStar over the Web to develop interactive, resource-based lessons (called tracks) on-line for their students. Once developed, tracks are added to the TrackStar database and can be accessed and modified (if necessary) by teachers everywhere. The PRISM project has added a search engine for polar related tracks, and has developed numerous new tracks on robotics, polar exploration, and climate change under the guidance of a K-12 teacher advisory group. The PRISM project is also developing and hosting several other web-based lesson design tools and resources for K-12 educators and students on the PRISM project web page ( These tools and resources include: i) "Polar Scientists and Explorers, Past and Present" covering the travels and/or unknown fate of polar explorers and scientists; ii) "Polar News" providing links to current news articles related to polar regions; iii) "Letter of Global Concern", which is a tool to help students draft a letter to a politician, government official, or business leader; iv) "Graphic Sleuth", which is an online utility that allows teachers to make lessons for student use; v) "Bears on Ice" for students in grades K - 6 that can follow the adventures of two stuffed bears that travel with scientists into polar regions; and vi) "K-12 Polar Resources," which provides teachers with images, information, TrackStar lessons, and a search engine designed to identify polar related lessons. In our presentation, we will describe and show examples of these tools and resources, and provide an assessment of their popularity with teachers nationwide.

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