Final Research Report - NOVA's Polar Extremes: Enhancing Experiential Digital Learning

Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Resource Type:
Research Case Study | Research Products | Research and Evaluation Instruments | Survey
Environment Type: 
Media and Technology, Broadcast Media, Websites, Mobile Apps, and Online Media, Games, Simulations, and Interactives
Middle School Children (11-13) | Youth/Teen (up to 17) | Adults | General Public | Museum/ISE Professionals | Scientists | Evaluators | Learning Researchers
Climate | Geoscience and geography
Access and Inclusion: 
Women and Girls
UC Santa Barbara

This NOVA multiplatform media initiative consisted of a 2-hour nationally broadcast PBS documentary, Polar Extremes; a 10-part original digital series, Antarctic Extremes; an interactive game, Polar Lab; accompanying polar-themed digital shorts, radio stories, text reporting, and social media content; a collection of educational resources on PBS LearningMedia; and community screening events and virtual field trips for science classrooms.  Across multiple media platforms the project’s video content had nearly 13 million views. 

The research explored the potential for informal STEM learning across two media platforms, interactive games (Polar Lab) and videos (Polar Extremes). We explored how two groups of younger audiences (ages 11-14 and 18-25) engage with polar science and what role STEM socialization played in young people’s choice to engage with science.

We found that while older audiences can make connections between what they see and its significance, younger audiences benefit from facilitators to connect learning with deeper understanding. We also found that discussing science with others enhances the learning experience. Many women who opted not to pursue a STEM-career could identify a time when they felt not good enough, or unwelcome in a male-dominated field (controlling for ethnicity/race). Thus science media producers should continue to normalize the presence of women in STEM.

Finally, younger audiences felt depressed or helpless after viewing upsetting content such as climate change; older audiences tended to be more inspired and hopeful, however. To help, media makers can focus on solutions—highlight what people are doing to try to fix the problems.

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Team Members

Lisa LeombruniLisa LeombruniCo-Principal Investigator
Heather HodgesHeather HodgesProject Staff

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