Evaluation of California Academy of Science’s new “Life on Earth” Exhibit

We recently partnered with two Bay Area researchers to test the new Life on Earth exhibit at the Cal Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. The exhibit was designed by researchers at Harvard, University of Michigan, University of Nebraska, Northwestern University, and TERC, an educational research firm based in Cambridge. The project was funded by the National Science Foundation. Dr. Chia Shen at Harvard led the project.

Deep Tree ExhibitLife on Earth is a multi-institutional National Science Foundation-funded project. The project aim was to improve public’s understanding of history of life on Earth by combining innovative information visualizations with a multi-user interactive tabletop technology. Building on research in the learning sciences and human-computer interaction, the  project offers the public the opportunity not only to see but also to touch, and explore tens of thousands of species in a phylogenetic Tree of Life. Our goal is to help people understand the history of life on Earth through common ancestry while bridging macro-evolutionary patterns of change with micro-evolutionary processes. The learning activities were designed for social-play in informal learning settings, and to provide playful access to four databases that contain scientific knowledge about the diverse living species. This project was designed to be highly interdisciplinary, working at the intersection of learning sciences, evolutionary biology, cognitive and developmental psychology, human-computer interaction, and visualization. The outcome will contribute to four areas of current research:
  • Cooperative human-computer interaction
  • Visualization of large scientific databases
  • Developmentally-appropriate learning research
  • Understanding of macro and micro evolutionary patterns
  • Embodied learning environment