iDigPaleo (https://idigpaleo.org/) is an online portal which aggregates and serves collections data and images and provides learners the opportunity to use specimens and data in the same way that researchers do. iDigPaleo is a product from the Thematic Collections Network “Fossil Insect Collaborative: A Deep-Time Approach to Studying Diversification and Response to Environmental Change”(http://fossilinsects.colorado.edu/).
In 2015, The Yale Peabody Museum hosted a teacher workshop (http://peabody.yale.edu/collections/invertebrate-paleontology/idigpaleo-teacher-workshop-2015) to get critical feedback directly from educators on how they would use a specimen data portal, and what features and tools would enable use in the classroom. The feedback they received was that teachers needed more than just a database. Teachers recommended that the development team focus on building context around the portal including but not limited to creating background materials, videos from collections/field, curated collections, and lesson plans based on NGSS.
Based on the feedback from the teacher workshop iDigPaleo was developed specifically with educators in mind. iDigPaleo can be browsed by anyone with internet access, and users can create an account that unlocks access to additional functionality. Accounts provide additional opportunities for formal and informal educational environments and allow projects to be tailored to address state curriculum standards. Accessing information is intuitive and the data can be browsed by type of fossil, common name, age, or collection locality. Results can be filtered in a variety of ways, for example, to include only records with images and/or map data. Tools include image magnification, annotating points, boxes or polygons, measuring tools, and image manipulation. Digital objects can be grouped into subsets that can be tailored to curriculum standards, educational goals, a particular location, or a particular time period. Student accounts are linked to educators, who can share sets and view annotations and measurements.
One of the great strengths of iDigPaleo is that it can be used by the entire spectrum of educational levels. As part of the teacher workshop, teachers drafted example lesson plans using the portal, for a wide-range or grades/levels.
The portal was originally created to aggregate fossil insect data mobilized by the TCN’s ten partners. iDigPaleo grew in scope from fossil insect specimens to include other paleontological projects (e.g., Cretaceous World TCN ( http://cretaceousworld.org/) as well as modern insects from TCN partners leveraging existing infrastructure while increasing taxon diversity. The developers also started building their portal to include use cases for K-12 education.
This lesson plan: Create a gallery of fossil organisms and identify distinctive body parts (wings, suckers, modified appendages) from the collection. Analyze and interpret these features to predict what type of environment the insect inhabited (3-LS4-1 of NGSS).
This resource was developed in conjunction with K-12 educators at an iDigPaleo workshop. Funded by NSF DBI #1305066.