One requirement of the grant is a presentation to teachers at the Fall 2010 Geofest. The iPod Touch allows us to put an incredible amount of data into the hands of students while they are on the boardwalk and in the middle of the old-growth, cypress-tupelo swamp. For example, students can call up the satellite image shown below and see the boardwalk drawn onto the swamp. If we are standing on the backside of the boardwalk south of the fork, we can ask the students, "Why does the image look lighter to the west of the boardwalk than it does to the east of the boardwalk?" From the boardwalk, a quick glance to the west reveals that the elevation of the land is slightly higher causing the area to be dry, which in turn allows different types of vegetation to grow in that area. Looking to the east, students can see land at a slightly lower elevation, which allows water to accumulate thereby allowing wetland-adapted species of plants to dominate. Seems like a simple concept, but it would be difficult for most students to visualize, if they had the same satellite image, but were sitting at their desk in a classroom.
The iPod Touch can also hold gigabytes worth of data in the form of images, video, audio, field guides, research projects, student-generated text or audio, a seemingly-infinite number of apps, and our own boardwalk-specific app. With these tools, especially our boardwalk-specific app, we provide students the ability to answer our questions as well as those that they develop.
Although the Francis Beidler Forest is unique and we find it to be a wonderful place to work, there would be little incentive for students to visit if they already knew all the answers regarding the swamp and the rest of our natural environments. However, without the ability for students to find the answers on their own, the only other form of instructional delivery is for the guide to verbally present all the information. Not all students learn well that way and even those that do will appreciate some instructional variety.
We currently have 10 iPod Touches available for use with visiting school groups and are working towards a set of 25 (2 students per unit). Check our education department calendar to see what dates are available for your students to visit!
Images by Mark Musselman