'We put on the glasses and Moon comes closer!' Urban Second Graders Exploring the Earth, the Sun and Moon Through 3D Technologies in a Science and Literacy Unit

Isik-Ercan Z., İnan H. Z., Nowak J. A., Kim B.

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SCIENCE EDUCATION, vol.36, pp.129-156, 2014 (SSCI) identifier identifier


This qualitative case study describes (a) the ways 3D visualization, coupled with other science and literacy experiences, supported young children's first exploration of the Earth-Sun-Moon system and (b) the perspectives of classroom teachers and children on using 3D visualization. We created three interactive 3D software modules that simulate day and night, Moon phases and seasons. These modules were used in a science and literacy unit for 35 second graders at an urban elementary school in Midwestern USA. Data included pre- and post-interviews, audio-taped lessons and classroom observations. Post-interviews demonstrated that children's knowledge of the shapes and the movements of the Earth and Moon, alternation of day and night, the occurrence of the seasons, and Moon's changing appearance increased. Second graders reported that they enjoyed expanding their knowledge through hands-on experiences; through its reality effect, 3D visualization enabled them to observe the space objects that move in the virtual space. The teachers noted that 3D visualization stimulated children's interest in space and that using 3D visualization in combination with other teaching methodsliteracy experiences, videos and photos, simulations, discussions, and presentationssupported student learning. The teachers and the students still experienced challenges using 3D visualization due to technical problems with 3D vision and time constraints. We conclude that 3D visualization offers hands-on experiences for challenging science concepts and may support young children's ability to view phenomena that would typically be observed through direct, long-term observations in outer space. Results imply a reconsideration of assumed capabilities of young children to understand astronomical phenomena.