Science Education Opportunities - Project Web Pages
Project Web Pages

Web pages are a great way to communicate your science. You are the developer and in complete control of the content. You determine the complexity - it can be a single informative page, or a series of pages. This means the investment of time and resources is up to you. The following ideas are just a start.

Photo by Betty Trummel, Husmann Elementary in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

A Few Models

General Comments
  • Often sites are "about a project" rather than "for an audience. Always have both components in mind when you are designing the site and writing the materials.

  • Often sites are for multiple users - researchers, teachers, general public. Be VERY clear about what is for whom. If your site is not for a specific audience, establish separate sections for each target audience.

  • Make sure your navigation is clear and appealing (each audience may define "appealing" in a different way) - test the pages with the intended audience!

  • If you choose to have a daily, weekly, monthly, etc. updates - be there, be on time, or assign a responsible party to the upkeep.

    Determine your target audience and scope.
    General public - information about your research
    K-12 teachers - educational resource relevant to your research
    K-12 students - educational information about your research

  • General Public
  • Consider an 8th grade reading level for materials presented to the general public; this is about the level of National Geographic. Alternatively, Discovery and Scientific American are a bit more advanced - for the scientifically literate public.

  • Determine what information you wish to include on your Web site. Always state:
  • Who is involved in the project. Consider "Web profiles." They should show you and your team members as real, live people. Let the audience know about your favorite music, food, hobby. Demystify scientists.
  • What the project is about - what are the questions? Why are they questions?
  • Why the project is important - include the BIG Picture here
  • Where the project is taking place. This should include the field site and the laboratory site
  • Who is funding the project
  • These elements need to be at the level of the audience. Get several readers from your audience to comment on the readability and interest of the text. Prompt your reviewers to discuss what else they may need to understand what you are describing (no, they don't always bring this up themselves).

  • Include pictures that show people doing science and graphics that really, really provide good information - with informative figure captions. These are often of the most interest. Meaningful video also captures attention.

  • Consider including periodic updates from the field or lab. Updates provide a "return" audience. They should be on a schedule; once a day, week, month, every three months........ Be sure that the time frame is appropriate to you and your schedule, and stick with it.

  • Use the KISS principle - "Keep It Simple Stupid!" Keep navigation, layout, graphics, etc. SIMPLE. Check out what's out there -you might notice that many popular public sites stay away from too many fluorescent colors, blinking text, spinning icons, etc...... there is a reason for this.......

  • If you want a very slick look, consider, if the funds are available, getting a designer / illustrator into the loop. Start with local undergraduate computer majors. Often they have the know-how, and need the experience / $$.

  • Teachers
  • Include all of the materials in the General Public section and.......

  • Real datasets for use in student projects.

  • Ideas for how to interpret and manipulate the data (massive datasets without background information are not useful).

  • Activities or ideas for activities that relate to your science and datasets. Collaborate with local teachers to develop appropriate, useful classroom materials. These can be short and sweet; teachers will work them into their standing curriculum. Be sure to determine and specify where the materials best fit (e.g., appropriate at what age level and in what subjects) - this will help focus the materials.

  • Consider having a "question of the week" - or monthly "do you know what this picture is?" that is related to your Web site. Students like the challenge and the teacher can integrate it into the classroom in numerous ways. Again, keep this up.

  • Links to educational sites that you have examined and find valuable. Quality is key on the Internet where the signal to noise ratio is low.

  • Contact information so that teachers can find you to ask questions or get additional information.

  • Remember that teachers are adults. If you are trying to get resources into their hands, present the materials for adults and let the teachers do their job of translating / facilitating in the classroom. Often materials for elementary school teachers are presented as though the teachers are the age of their students.

  • Students
  • Determine the target age level. Materials that captivate elementary, middle school and high school students differ. Check out age-appropriate Web sites for ideas on layout and level of graphics.

  • Include all of the materials in the General Public section and.......

  • "Lead" the students around the Web site, introduce them to undergraduates and graduate students. Let them get to know YOU. One big goal in science education is to show that "science is a human endeavor." The more they get to know you, the easier it is for them to see themselves doing science.

  • Consider including a well-documented photo-gallery or photo journal - tell the story of your research and why it is important.

  • Consider having an "ask-a-scientist" link -- but make the commitment to respond to questions. This often is not as overwhelming as it seems it is going to be. You can always try it and remove the link if it becomes too much.

  • Consider having a "question of the week" - or monthly "do you know what this picture is?" Students really like the challenge. Relate this to your Web site so the students have to think about the materials you present.

  • A Few Models

    General Public
    National Snow and Ice Data Center Though the data products are targeted primarily for the science research community, NSIDC has compiled education resources for teachers, students, and the general public. Presentation and upkeep probably moderate in the required investment.

    Secrets of the Ice by the Boston Museum of Science. This polished general public site results from collaboration between the ITASE research community and the producers and educators at the BMoS. The site reflects strong content from the research side, and probably a considerable investment of resources from the Museum in the Web site development, illustration, and maintenance. "Live" sites such as this one require someone to work with them consistently.

    GLACIER Antarctic Earth science site that targets the general public. Most of the materials are written at an 8th grade level. The site is unfinished, reflecting a common problem in undertaking a sizeable project (patience is required). Moderate investment of funds and time in the development, illustration, and upkeep of the site.

    Leighton Taylor & Associates Biologist and writer, Dr. Leighton Taylor, and NSF-sponsored nature photographer Norbert Wu worked together to document the underwater world of McMurdo Sound. Nice, concise, well photographed site for the public. Probably reflects moderate investment of time in the development of the site. A site like this requires little in upkeep and yet it can "stay fresh" for a year or more.

    TerraQuest Virtual Expeditions on the World Wide Web Includes Virtual Antarctica, a well illustrated, informative, interesting site for the general public. Design of a site at this level requires considerable expertise in graphics; the site can stand "as is" for several years.

    Antarctic Philately Site A focused, comprehensive site on Antarctic stamps and the history of exploration. The site probably reflects a considerable investment of time in the design and maintenance but a moderate to small investment in the illustrations.

    Graduate student Jerry Bowling posted images and journal entries from the field. More of a "for the folks at home" feel.

    Antarctic Oceanography: A Research Expedition to the George V Coastal Region Bob Vaillancourt is sending journals and images every few days from the RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer. Nice, simple. Basic data are reported. Materials are sent via e-mail and posted by another individual at the hosting institution.

    Into the Arctic A site designed to offer instructional materials and activities for teachers to use in the many contexts of their daily teaching routine. Information and activities are divided into four sections: Climate, Climate Change, El Niņo and the Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2. Navigation is a little challenging. The site probably reflects considerable initial investment in the development; it requires little in the way of upkeep as designed.

    The South Pole Adventure Web Page The Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica teamed up with Science writer Janice VanCleave to develop a Web page wrapped around an expedition. Nice brain teasers and experiments for students. The site probably reflects moderate to considerable investment in the design and illustration; it requires maintenance to keep the expedition materials current.

    Arctica A science mystery about a group of British explorers frozen into the Arctic in 1834. Presented by Access Excellence. Nicely illustrated, concise, quasi-interactive. The site probably reflects moderate investment in the design and more in the illustration.


    New ideas, suggestions for changes, recommendations for additions, etc. always are welcome and can be mailed to:

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