With the emergence of open resources and new technologies, Americans today have scads of knowledge at their fingertips. Yet sifting through data is a major barrier for most. By visualizing global trends, however, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has found a way to see earth science information rolled out in colorful maps on an animated 6-foot globe. They call it Science On a Sphere, and its popularity is growing. In fact, the display is now in more than 120 museums and science-technology centers worldwide.
Today, the Energy Department has joined the game, releasing renewable energy-related content about sources such as geothermal, solar and wind. We’re tapping this entertaining vehicle to educate America about renewable energy and the range of sustainable energy options. These datasets are part of Department’s commitment to the White House’s Climate Education and Literacy Initiative, launched in December 2014 to connect students and citizens with the best-available, science-based information about climate change. On August 20, as part of the White House’s Back to School Climate event, over 16 museum members of the Association of Science-Technology Centers showcased the datasets.
Programming for Science On a Sphere is virtually limitless. Sequences include the surface of Mars, the migration of sea turtles, and even a compelling sampling of applied mathematics. As an educational tool, Science On a Sphere supplements the learning going on in museums and science centers where it is available. When new images of Pluto streamed from NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft recently, thousands who visited Science On a Sphere gained a unique perspective of the former planet as they explored its surface and learned more about our solar system.
Science On a Sphere also works effectively as a classroom tool. With the use of the Sphere, traditional learning goes high-tech. Math On a Sphere, for instance, tasks students with computer programming to design and create geometric shapes that display on the sphere. Learning about spherical geometry and computer logic bears immediate rewards for these students, who see their handiwork displayed in living color.