Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2011ME247B

Prototype Development of SimStream, a Computer-Based Immersive Learning-Environment for Introducing Environmental Systems Concepts to Middle-School Students

Institute: Maine
Year Established: 2011 Start Date: 2011-03-01 End Date: 2012-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $2,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $48,177

Principal Investigators: Shaleen Jain, Mike Scott

Abstract: Working with student- and teacher focus groups, the project develops a prototype computer-based immersive environment framework concept exploring relationships between a watershed and neighboring human settlement, titled SimStream. The target audience is 6th-8th graders and the goal for SimStream is to be integrated into middle-school science curricula. The framework uses various population, ecological and hydrological models for students to explore and learn a variety of fundamental environment science concepts. The proposed prototype focuses on the smallest coupled natural-human system with resiliency, sustainability and critical (tipping) point parameters, demonstrating the interdependence of an anthrosphere ("City" [Urban-Industrial], "Farm" [Rural-Agricultural]) and biosphere ("River" [Natural-Estuary]). Each community has a primary population (City:Human, Farm:Crops, River:Fish). By understanding and visualizing systems and quantitative problem solving, students learn to navigate in an uncertain future. The student’s responsibility is to understand the system’s interdependencies and develop effective management policies promoting balanced, sustainable growth of all communities. Students learn to think flexibly and adaptively to deal with nonlinear system responses beyond user control to user decisions and actions. Students formulate resource management and industrial-agricultural policies based on data from each system component/community and on population growth and interaction models. Students witness the consequences of their decisions, choices, policies, and actions on the total ecosystem, and learn how to preserve the necessary balance of subsystem needs to maintain mutually sustaining and healthy river, farmland and city populations. The proposed project supports Maine middle-school students’ aspirations to pursue STEM studies and aspire to STEM-related careers.