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The Passport to Knowledge Project

Electronic field-trips via television, print and telecomputing take students on adventures to the ends of the Earth, to the bottom of the oceans and out into space. These adventures consists of live, interactive video programs, hands-on activities in the classroom described in print, and online resources and interactive opportunities on computer networks.

The PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE project uses the unique power of television and the Internet in the service of science education -- letting viewers see and hear people and places distant, difficult and sometimes dangerous to get to. An extensive partnership of contributors -- NASA, NSF and other government research agencies, public television stations in every region of the country, foundations, corporate sponsors, science educators and individual schools -- gives students the opportunity to witness live the ongoing exploration of Antarctica or the heavens, volcanic craters or ocean depths. On-camera or online, students can ask questions of researchers expert in biology and medicine, geology or space science, ocean studies and global climate change, and receive answers. Any school anywhere in America with equipment no more sophisticated than a television set, a regular computer, a modem, a phone line and an imaginative teacher can harvest fascinating information on the most current scientific research to complement the core curriculum.

The live television programs serve as exciting "events" -- the climax of careful teacher-mediated preparation which will motivate students to appreciate the rare opportunity which has been given to them. The live, interactive segments have all the thrill of what has been called "expeditionary learning," an adventure which takes the young explorers literally where no "pupils" have gone before. Pre-taped documentary segments will bring superior production values to each special, delighting students with the excitement and drama seen in COSMOS, NOVA or the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC series. Research shows youngsters enjoy, admire and learn from these programs.

The students' guides on this voyage of discovery will be men and women who have made scientific achievement their "passport" to a lifetime of discovery. The exhilaration and enthusiasm of these real-life heroes and heroines -- finding amazing new patterns in the oceans of data sent back by distant spacecraft, plunging in dry-suits into sub-freezing waters, surveying the rims of active volcanoes or being the first American astronaut aboard the Mir space station -- will teach an implicit lesson about the rewards of a life in research and the value of studying mathematics and science in school.

LIVE FROM... MARS, this year's activity, features NASA's two missions to Mars. The Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft launched in November and will arrive about nine months later to begin an orbital mission that will provide detailed mapping and weather information. The Mars Pathfinder spacecraft lift-off was in December and will land on the Red Planet on July 4, 1997. Once landed, the mission plan calls for a micro-rover named Sojourner to begin wandering the Martian terrain, returning a wealth of new science data.

Students are becoming "co-investigators" with the field researchers and practice logical and mathematical problem-solving skills with direct application to real-world issues. A database accessible through e-mail provides an ever-expanding online "encyclopedia," more up-to-date than any other available, with the capability to answer automatically simple, factual questions but forwarding more complex or revealing inquiries on to a cadre of online experts.

The program activities complement and enhance the existing curriculum in Science. The print and online resources suggest adaptations for Math, Social Studies, Language Arts and Computer classes, in line with supporting the innovative interdisciplinary team-teaching approach now favored by many Middle Schools.

Over the past three years, PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE has participated in the following electronic field trips:

  • LIVE FROM THE STRATOSPHERE Aboard one of NASA's high-flying aircraft at 45,000 feet, the Kuiper Flying Observatory: looking out to the furthest reaches of the Universe: the Passport to Knowledge team participated in an educational project using the first-ever live video downlink from the Kuiper, in fall 1995.

  • LIVE FROM HUBBLE From astonishing images of the planets of our own solar system, to spectacular pictures of galaxies, to the very edges of the known Universe, the newly refurbished Hubble Space Telescope provides a window on the most current understanding of the heavens. Staff within NASA's UV and Visual Astrophysics division are strongly supportive of educational activities. Students participated in targeting the Hubble Space Telescope on a planets of their choice, interacted in real-time with Hubble scientists, literally looking over their shoulders as images arrived.

  • LIVE FROM ANTARCTICA focussed on Antarctica research extending the eyes and ears of its student audience to the entire continent, from McMurdo Base to the South Pole, from the Dry Valleys to the Shackleton Range. It looked at the geology, climate, biology, history and future of one of the most fascinating places on Earth, at the ongoing enterprise of scientific discovery at the very frontiers of knowledge and at the researchers who are unlocking Antarctica's secrets.
FUTURE: We are currently exploring these future themes, for PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE Adventures


We are also exploring field trips back in time, to the caves of Lascaux II or Peche Merle, to see how the art of the Ice Age lets us explore the mind, beliefs, society and life-styles of early humans; an electronic visit to an African nature preserve, such as the Serengeti, to let students experience the challenge of effecting co-existence between humans and animals and to explore the role of local communities and eco-tourism in preserving species; or students might "swim" with the whales, through camera eyes carried by specially trained dolphins. Perhaps the most exciting prospect of all involves a project that is furthest off in time: LIVE FROM THE MOON.

There has been much talk about the "Information Superhighway," linking home and school with libraries and research institutions. Must students and teachers wait for the rich, educational cargo the promised digital highway may deliver? PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE and the LIVE FROM... specials will use today's technology to give a glimpse of that future, to jump-start access to that new universe of discovery. By enriching science education, the ongoing series of specials might ensure the generation which will inherit the information infrastructure we are constructing will be wise, imaginative and responsible citizens of an increasingly complex technological society. By using free, public television as its medium, it ensures maximum exposure to innovative, cutting edge science in as diverse a mix of communities and as culturally varied a group of students as possible.

For further information write to:
P.O. Box 1502
Summit, NJ, 0792-1502



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