The GRASP project examines how body movement, particularly hand gestures, supports student reasoning about critical science concepts that have unseen structures and unobservable mechanisms (e.g., molecular interactions). We are currently focusing on three topics: gas pressure, thermal conduction, and the cause of seasons. A significant component of this project involves talking to middle school students about their ideas regarding these three topics and prompting them to use their hands when constructing explanations.
The second goal of this project is to augment existing simulations that have been created by our collaborators at the Concord Consortium. These enhanced simulations respond to gestural input via the use of motion tracking devices (i.e. the Leap Motion). Students control these new simulations by using their hands to act out the critical mechanism (e.g., molecule interactions, light rays hitting the surface of the Earth, etc.). Our research team is investigating whether the use of these gesture-augmented simulations allow for more sophisticated and more scientific explanations. The overarching goal is to create science simulations that can serve as partners to students trying to explain their ideas in a classroom or other educational environments.
To conduct this research we are working with several middle school teachers and their students in Central Illinois. These students are giving us ideas about how to design these simulations to better align with their intuitions and the multi-modal way that people construct explanations. If you live in the Central Illinois area and you, your child, or your class are interested in participating please contact us.
Our chief collaborator for the GRASP project is the Concord Consortium. The Concord Consortium has years of experience building curriculum and new technologies to promote STEM education. Concord Consortium is developing prototypes of science simulations which are then tested through student interviews conducted by UIUC researchers.