HIGHLAND | The Warren Elementary School sixth-graders didn't have to pack the bus or sack lunches for this trip, but when the lights dimmed in the school's common area you would have thought the students were in a lab at Purdue University.
Through Web conferencing technology, Purdue brings the field trip to students, allowing many classes to sign up at one time and share the experience with Purdue scientists.
Students at Warren, Southridge and Johnston elementary schools in Highland and dozens of other middle schools across the state participated in a Purdue zipTrip.
With the support from a Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant, Purdue developed electronic field trips for middle school students where they visit places beyond the classroom. The goal of the trips is to generate a greater interest in science among sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.
As their classmates sat on the floor and at tables with a tray of crayfish at each table in Warren's common's area, Miranda Menzyk, 11, and Taylor Howard manned two computers. The girls busily typed in questions to Purdue professors as they watched a 45-minute presentation on the similarities between the body systems of people and animals.
The students also joined Purdue professors on a virtual tour of a state-of-the-art horse treadmill laboratory.
"I think this is fun. We can keep in contact with them by typing in questions and e-mailing it to them. This is the first time we've taken this kind of trip," Miranda said.
Taylor liked the opportunity to be able to use technology while on the field trip.
Their teacher Robert Dockery said the program is free to the school district, and enriches the work students do in the classroom. He also said it saves time because it could have been a three-hour ride back and forth to the campus with children jostling each other trying to see the animals. Instead, the students were able to walk out of their classrooms and be done with the program in less than an hour.
Highland's instructional technical coordinator Nora Kasprzycki said the program is very educational for children, and eventually she hopes it will be interactive.
Eleven-year-old Kyle Barbour thought of a couple of questions he wanted to ask professors, and he said he especially liked the segment on bones and fossils.
The Purdue zipTrips program is jointly provided by the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue Agriculture and the Discovery Learning Center at Purdue. Additional partners include Indiana Higher Education Telecommunication System, Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations Inc. and Purdue Video & Multimedia Production. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (888) EXT-INFO for more information.