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Getting ready for the Next Generation Science Standards? This e-Lab meets ALL NGSS science practices. See Standards link in the menu for listing.
Students can collaborate to analyze seismic data from LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory. From start to finish this is a student-led, teacher-guided project. Students write a researchable question and analyze data in much the same way as professional scientists. e-Lab tools facilitate collaboration among students as they develop their investigations and report their results.
Students begin their investigation by watching a Cool Science video to understand the context of their project. They can perform one of four studies: earthquake, frequency band, microseismic and human-induced seismic activity. They can use the project milestones to guide their research and can record their work and reflect on their progress in their e-Logbook. Students post the results of their studies as online posters. The real scientific collaboration follows. Students can review the results of other studies online comparing data and analyses. Using online tools, they can correspond with other research groups, post comments and questions, prepare summary reports and, in general, participate in the part of scientific research that is often left out of classroom experiments.
One sample poster is available. In the future, a poster that exceeds expectations will also be included.
Introduction to LIGO
LIGO's huge laser interferometers in Washington State and in
listen for the faint ripples of space-time called gravitational waves.
LIGO seeks to detect gravitational waves from the collisions of black
holes or neutron stars and from star explosions known as supernovae.
These interferometers are capable of measuring movements that are
smaller than one thousandth of the diameter of a proton. Because the
detectors are built on the ground, ground vibrations can affect
their operation. Consequently, LIGO closely monitors these vibrations
through an array of seismometers mounted at each Observatory.
Students can use data from these seismometers to explore a wide vareity
of seismic questions, many of which will have a connection to LIGO's
Good Research Questions
Developing a good research question is one of the most challenging parts of the e-Lab for many students. A good research question provides a framework around which students can build a research plan. Good research questions are testable. "How often do earthquakes happen?" might not be a helpful research question since it doesn't point to a deeper cause-and-effect relationship. "Is there a relationship between how often earthquakes happen and where they happen (epicenter)?" is a better question because the researcher will inevitably be faced with cause-and-effect connections as the reserch plan unfolds. The LIGO e-Lab provides the opportunity for many good research questions based on earthquakes.
Student Prior Knowledge and Skills
Before doing the LIGO e-Lab, students should be comfortable with these skills:
We provide a refresher for students who need to brush up on these skills. Students access these from "The Basics" section of the project milestones.
Learner Outcomes and Assessment
Here are the e-Lab outcomes that students must demonstrate:
Assessment is aligned to learner outcomes. While many teachers will want to design their own assessments, we provide some options.
Suggestions for Getting Started
The LIGO Seismology Instructional unit: Are you teaching a course that involves seismology content? Consider using the LIGO seismology instructional unit as a means of addressing seismology learning objectives while providing a natural way for students to engage in the LIGO e-Lab. The standards-based instructional unit includes plans for approximately eight seismology lessons followed by seven lessons that utilize the e-Lab. Download the instructional unit as a PDF File or as a Word Document.
Remember that students can look through completed posters to gain ideas for research questions. You can look at the Classroom Activities other teachers have shared.
Some teachers will choose to use the seismology intructional unit and will introduce the LIGO e-Lab in the context of the unit. Other teachers, such as physics teachers, might not utilize the instructional unit and will come to the LIGO e-Lab from a different direction, such as a unit on wave behavior or on science inquiry skills. In either case, a good way to begin the LIGO e-Lab is to invite the class to watch Cool Science together. Play the Standalone Movie and enlarge the window.
Teachers can help students get started in the e-Lab by asking broad questions in class discussion. These are not research questions. Their intent would be to motivate kids to start thinking about good research questions. The following questions are general and would require no specific prior experience:
Other teacher questions might draw upon recent student learning. For instance if students had completed an earth science unit, some motivational questions might be:
If students have covered wave behavior in a physics or physical science class, some starter questions could be:
Remember that students can look through completed posters to gain ideas for research questions.
Here are some studies students can do:
Help Desk & Sharing Ideas
e-Lab Technology Requirements
Ask your tech support person if you need help with browser settings. The Resources in the Library and the background material may include YouTube videos and java applets, but these are not critical for using the e-Lab.