Reviewed in The American Biology Teacher, March 2004, pp 223-224
Voyages Through Time. (2003). Six CD-ROMs and Activity Modules by the SETI Institute. Produced by Learning in Motion, 497 Lake Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95062-3938. For customer service call (800) 560-5670 or visit www.voyagesthroughtime.org. A set of all six module packages is $999.00, or $199.00 for each individual module.
The past several years have witnessed a major change in the high school science curriculum. Many schools and school districts are infusing ninth and/or tenth grade curriculums with a student-centered integrated science course. In response to such increasing demand, the SETI Institute has articulated a yearlong curriculum program that aims for students to understand evolution as cumulative changes over time, the various processes and connections underlying these changes, and science as a process to understanding our world. This is clearly an ambitious agenda to fulfill, but these modules do not shy away from these objectives.
Voyages Through Time is broken into six modules: Cosmic Evolution, Planetary Evolution, Origin of Life, Hominid Evolution, and Evolution of Technology. The curriculum uses the 5 Es (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate) instructional model developed by the Biological Science Curriculum Study. The content is centered on scientific investigations, and based on scientific research and national standards. Each module includes 28 days of classroom activities, multiple images and videos, a student reader with several articles, interactive computer simulations, databases, an image library, and other toolsthus creating a genuine multimedia approach to teaching and learning.
The module Origin of Life deals with the exploration of life at the molecular and cellular level. The activities range from using the microscope to extracting nucleic acids from plant and animal tissues. The student reader contains excellent lessons on classic experiments such as the works of Griffith and Hershey-Chase.
Students are even introduced to the Dictyostelum system as a model of cellular organization.
Evolution of Life presents the diversity of multicellular life and the processes that shape diversity. The activities in the student reader cover the species concept in a thorough fashion. The work of Gregor Mendel is exquisitely portrayed from a theoretical framework. In addition, students get the opportunity to consider the scientific controversy surrounding evolution and the questions that arise when considering changes in a population, including the concept of punctuated equilibrium developed by Niles Eldredge and the late Stephen Jay Gould.
The Hominid Evolution module establishes a powerful link between biology and anthropology that nicely illustrates the interdisciplinary nature of modern science. The student reader includes a reprint from Discover magazine dealing with the controversial issue of race, using recent data published by the well-known anthropologist, Nina Jablonski, whose work on bipedalism is also included. Questions about such topics as the impact of tools and technology on early human populations are considered as well.
Another module that leads to questions of much impact is Evolution of Technology. This is perhaps the most interdisciplinary of all the units and should be covered toward the end of the school year, since it promotes student understanding of the relationship between science and technology by creating a project. Students will have the opportunity to consider important questions such as how traffic congestion could be alleviated, the social and economic costs of emerging technologies, and the repercussions of delaying aging and death.
The modules are carefully researched and designed, but there are some minor flaws. The CD-ROMs include some interviews that seem monotonous for a high school student. Also, some exceptional figures are included, but their immediate relevance is not easily apparent. All in all, Voyages Through Time is an incredible effort to present integrated science in a sociohistorical context (often missing from major textbooks). Progressive educators will find much to offer students without struggling to reinvent the wheel. Students will find that Voyages Through Time is a journey into discovery and a better understanding of the natural world.
New York University
New York, NY 10012