A Field Trip without Buses: Connecting Your Students to Scientists through a Virtual Visit

Article excerpt


What do scientists do? How do scientists work? Where do scientists work? Students often ask these and other questions about scientists and the nature of their work. As indicated by Alec Bodzin and Mike Gehringer (2001), it is important for "teachers to find ways for their students to see scientists as individuals in a variety of settings and roles" (p. 36). ZipTrips are web- and broadcast-delivered electronic field trips that include online videos, lesson plans, and a live, 45-minute interactive program consisting of four core components: in-studio audience, live interaction with scientists, prerecorded segments, and integrated activities for in-studio, web, and broadcast audiences.

Three live, interactive zipTrips are offered each school year: "We're All Animals" (sixth grade) in September, "Disease Detectives" (seventh grade) in November, and "It's a Gene Thing" (eighth grade) in February. The supplemental materials can be accessed at any time by registering on the website (www.purdue. edu/ziptrips). Also, if classes are unable to participate in the real-time broadcasts, teachers and students can watch an archived web stream any time during the school year.

Purdue zipTrips have three main goals: to provide opportunities for students to interact with university researchers as career role models, to help students experience firsthand the nature of the job of scientists and the education pathways to their careers, and to enhance students' interests and perceptions of life science research, scientists, and career opportunities. Scientists featured in zipTrips were selected to portray a -wide array of scientific fields and vary in gender, age, and ethnicity.

Although there are three zipTrips programs ("We're All Animals" for the sixth grade, "Disease Detectives" for the seventh grade, and an eighth-grade program covering genetics), this article focuses only on the sixth-grade program, which provides participants with the opportunity to interact with and see the work of three life scientists: a veterinarian, an equine researcher, and an anatomist.

Current offerings for the sixth-grade program

A day in the life of a veterinarian: In the first segment of the show, Professor Lori Corriveau, a veterinarian and researcher in Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine, talks about her typical day as a veterinarian and discusses the nature of her work, why she decided to become a veterinarian, and the societal relevance of her practice and research work. The conversation with Professor Corriveau broadcasts live, but the segment also includes a preproduced video showing footage of a "day in the life" of the veterinarian as she treats different animals.


Visit the horse treadmill lab: This segment features a live connection between the production studio and the Equine Research Laboratory at Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine, where Professor Laurent Couetil, an equine researcher, uses a horse to help demonstrate how scientists employ scientific inquiry and technology. With Whitey (the horse) on a supersized treadmill (see Figure 1), Professor Couetil explains how scientists use treadmill technology to diagnose and treat injured animals, train veterinary practitioners, and engage in research to develop new treatments and prevention regimens for equine injuries. Using a heart-rate monitor attached to Whitey, Professor Couetil monitors the horse's heart rate as it runs on the treadmill. Students observe how the horse's heart rate increases with an increase in exercise. Professor Couetil then invites the in-studio, web, and broadcast audiences to measure their own heart rate and observe how it varies with activity level by measuring their pulse rate on their necks before and after jumping in place for 30 seconds.

Meet an anatomist: Professor Lisa Hilliard, an anatomist and university researcher, teaches students about the nature of the job of an anatomist, as well as similarities and differences between humans and animals "on the inside. …