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Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics

Mentor’s Guidelines

Project mentor’s guidelines for The Aurora Project, an internet-based space physics lesson


The Aurora Project, a step-by-step, space physics lesson assignment, outlines a research oriented, internet\world wide web (WWW) based, “science project” style lesson. Teachers, parents, or relatives, can serve as “Project Mentors” to help students complete the Aurora Project learning experience. The earth’s auroras are explored by de-emphasizing the importance placed on the written report and the table-top display which are normally the focus of science project oriented tasks. Instead, the Aurora Project develops a sequenced, interlinked learning method that reinforces the student’s usage of WWW resources. Such WWW-based resources include other space physics lessons, simulations, real-time data and images, video clips and movies, and scientifically oriented, text-based materials. As students, either individually or with a partner, progress through the lesson, they repetitively integrate and associate the individual steps in a connective fashion utilizing text, graphics, models, and visually oriented displays. The culmination of the project, The Aurora Learning Center (either a table-top or WWW-based page presentation) allows other students to learn about the earth’s magnetosphere by experiencing the research and experimentation results.

The information about the earth’s aurora necessary to effectively complete this lesson can be obtained from Internet links embedded in this lesson or from independent student research utilizing WWW-based resources. Try WWWeb site: for both on-line and off-line resources. Background information about auroras can be obtained from off-line resources such as: The Aurora Watcher’s Handbook by T. Neil Davis, University of Alaska Press. 1992: ISBN 0-912006-60-9. Two videos, Aurora and The Aurora Explained, are available from the University of Alaska Geophysical Institute. Contact Rose Watabe via EMail at or (907) 464-7487. A suggested Project Timeline and Schedule is provided to assist in lesson planning. A step-per-week assignment schedule allows for the Aurora Project to be completed within a 12 week time-frame.

Assessing the Project’s Effectiveness

Combining teacher as well as student peer assessment to evaluate student project accomplishments has proven to be an effective assessment protocol. Any of the student products: the Match-up Puzzle (Step 5), the Illustrated Quiz Cards (Step 7), the Briefing Booklets (Step 8), or the Research Report (Step 10) materials, can be assigned to individual students or student groups for review and evaluation. A rubric could be developed to assist students in their evaluation of each of these lesson steps. Such intra-student evaluations laterally distributes the magnetospherel research among all students in a class or across several classes. To evaluate the effectiveness of the Aurora Learning Center, several learning centers can be reviewed by individual students or student groups. Afterward, these students’ knowledge about the earth’s auroras can be assessed by examination, either orally and/or in writing.

Suggested Student Assessment Protocols

Students can evaluate any of the suggested Steps listed above by answering the following general questions:

  • What new material did you learn from this Step activity?
  • What could have been done to make this Step activity even better?
  • What was special about this Step activity?

An assessment value (points) could be assigned by the student evaluators after they are shown what typical scores could be assigned. In general, students who assess other students’ work often are very critical with their value placement and often assign a lower value to the work than experienced teachers. Student assessment should always be moderated before any value is awarded to the work being evaluated.

Project Folder

Utilizing a 9.5 by 11.5 in Project Folder, with inside pockets, facilitates the evaluation, task completion monitoring, and overall organization of the project. A copy of the Timeline and Assignment Schedule should be placed in the left pocket and used to score and record the completion of each of the 12 Step assignments. When a new Step assignment is turned in, it is placed on the right side of the folder in the pocket. After that Step is evaluated, it is transferred to the left pocket and placed in order in accordance with the Assignment Schedule. The score for this Step is also recorded on the Assignment Schedule. Step 7 (Illustrated Quizcards) and Step 8 (Briefing Booklets) tend to be bulky materials and can be stored in the right side pocket. As a safeguard against &ldqruo;lost” project folders, copies of all documents should be made by the student and stored at home in another folder.