Two Students Present Research at Science and Technology Conference

Penn State Brandywine senior Sara Neville and junior Labanya Mookerjee presented their research projects at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference and Exposition in June at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. Traveling with these students was their adviser and mentor Laura Guertin, associate professor of Earth sciences.

ISTE is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting the use of information technology to aid in learning and teaching of kindergarten through twelfth grade students and teachers.

Both Neville and Mookerjee were invited to present at the ISTE conference because each has created a tool designed for use in the classroom that revolves around Google Earth, which allows visitors to view any location, from galaxies in outer space to the canyons in the ocean, via satellite imagery, maps, terrain and 3D buildings. Neville's project focuses on science and books, Mookerjee's on music.

For the past two years, Neville has been working on an innovative Earth and space science program designed for sixth through twelfth grade science teachers. She has presented this program to teachers locally and in Delaware and Kentucky.

Her presentation was on "the collection of activities titled The Earth and Space QUEST, and the application of these activities in middle and high school science classrooms," she explained. "Each QUEST is a visual representation of the content of a nonfiction book. The content of Earth science-based books takes readers around the world, and Google Earth is a perfect platform for students to visualize geospatial relationships and make the content seem relevant. In addition to these book tours, I've created lesson plan guides that include key terms, vocabulary, discussion questions and other supplemental information for teachers."


Sara Neville with her presentation
Sara Neville with her Earth and Space QUEST pesentation at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in Philadelphia

Neville said she was inspired to create this tool during a summer workshop for pre-service and in-service science teachers in 2009. The group was asked to read "The Control of Nature" by John McPhee but she said they found it difficult to put the book's content "into relevant context for us. I got the idea for creating a virtual journey through the book after doing something similar in a geoscience class ... and the QUEST was born!"

She has worked on three book tours and hopes to focus on educational technology and curriculum development in Earth and environmental science after graduation.

Mookerjee, on the other hand, has created lesson plans that can be used to teach music in kindergarten through eighth grade classrooms using Google Earth. With the help of Guertin, Associate Professor of Music Education Ann Clements from University Park and music education graduate student Teri Yerger, Mookerjee has created an interactive, online international map of musical instruments. Using Google Earth, the students are able to connect geography and culture with the sound of music.

"The conference was an awesome experience, and I am truly grateful to Dr. Guertin for introducing me to such opportunities!" Mookerjee said.

Guertin emphasized the rigorous and competitive nature of the conference, "This conference only accepted 35 percent of all the session proposals submitted for review. This is a significant achievement by both of these undergraduate researchers for their work to get accepted. This demonstrates how relevant and significant their work is at an international level."