You can use The Archimedes Initiative website in many ways. For example:
Scenario I: Free Explore
Students enter a completely free, uninfluenced, self-directed learning experience. The students access the website without any preconceived instructions or purposes. Students learn firsthand about the experiences of others at their own pace and interest. From our own observations of this scenario, we observed a number of rising high school freshmen with the assignment “to experience The Archimedes Initiative.” They sat down at a computer terminal, accessed its website, and without hesitation, moved to a page and randomly watched one clip, then another, for over a quarter hour with a stop.
Scenario II: Focus on a Topic
While in the classroom, the teacher tells the students about the about the site. The teacher further instructs the students to focus on a topic of interest that is covered in one of the specified 17 theme videos. Students surf the website in the classroom or at home or elsewhere. For example, a teacher can assign students to watch the theme videos “What’s in It for Me?” and “Choose Your Own Science Adventure” at the early stage of each year’s science fair sequence. Teachers can follow up with classroom discussion and activities, such as sharing what they learned with a partner, writing a narrative of how they might go about their own projects after watching, or presenting someone else’s project to the class.
Scenario III: Investigating the Site
The teacher can pose a question to the students or identify questions from the students previous sharing which can be answered in The Archimedes Initiative’s content. Place students in pairs, then assign them to explore The Archimedes Initiative’s website to find potential answers to those questions by “consulting” with the theme videos and the video clips. Follow up with whole-class discussion.
Scenario IV: Follow Along with your Own Science Fair Experience
In a more teacher-directed approach, show each of the 17 five-minute theme videos (or some number of them) regularly over a period of several months in parallel with students simultaneously doing their projects. Theme videos 1 – 9 follow the sequence of doing a scientific or engineering research project. Among the other theme videos are topics that can be shown outside this order at the teacher’s discretion or at the students’ needs. For example, “Straight Talk from Fellow Students” (#10) includes advice dealing with choosing one’s project. Thus, a teacher might choose to present, or assign their students “Straight Talk from Fellow Students” following “Choose Your Own Science Adventure” (#2). “Teaming Up vs. Going Solo” (#17) might be shown second, providing the students and the teachers with insight regarding the advantages and disadvantages of working in a team project. “Navigating Speed Bumps” (#15) could well be shown just after “Cookbook Not Included. Experiments from Scratch” (#5) since it is during the performance of the experiment that researchers encounter most of the problems in doing research. In another version of this scenario, students can explore the site outside of the classroom and take notes on key points that the AI students share. Students can report back to their peers about what they learned.
Scenario V: At the End of the Fair
After students complete a science fair experience, teachers can direct students to engage in an AI students’ experience. Students can compare and contrast their own experiences either in written or presentation form. Alternatively, students can now answer some of the questions posed by the AI interviewers. This can be videoed to create the class’ own version of AI. These videos can also be submitted to The Archimedes Initiative for possible inclusion on the site. Please contact The Archimedes Initiative to obtain parental permission forms that must be signed and returned prior to submission of the video materials.
The site is flexible. Teachers can adapt the site to create lessons, support an existing lesson plan, and even use spontaneously to add zest and excitement to a class. Students can consciously or, as in much of internet surfing, subconsciously choose segments they deem appropriate and find useful.
The students will gain a breadth of knowledge from the site and build a foundation of information and understanding simply by exploring and processing without further group activities. Indeed, this is the way of independent research. The Archimedes Initiative was intended for this type of individual consumption and exploration, yet in a sense, provides a classroom-type experience by educating while the information is consumed organically by the user. For an excellent discussion and leading references about engaging students in talk strategies via science, see the recent article “Talk Strategies. How to Promote Oral Language Development Through Science” by L. M. Shea and T. B. Shanahan (Science and Children, November 2011, pp 62 – 66).