Learning Functional Models of Aquaria: The ACT Project on Ecosystem Learning in Middle School Science

Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE, volume 28)


The ACT project is an ongoing collaboration among learning, cognitive, computing and biological scientists at Georgia Institute of Technology and Rutgers University, focusing on learning functional models of ecosystems in middle school science. In particular, ACT (for Aquarium Construction Toolkit) is an interactive learning environment for stimulating and scaffolding construction of Structure-Behavior-Function (SBF) models to reason about classroom aquaria. Initial results from deployment of ACT in several classrooms with a few hundred middle school children indicate statistically significant improvement in identification of the structure, behaviors and functions of classroom aquaria as well as appropriation of SBF modeling by some middle school teachers for modeling other natural systems. In this article, we summarize and review the main results from ACT on learning about SBF models of ecosystems in middle school science and describe self-regulated learning in ACT, while also looking ahead and outlining the design of a metacognitive ACT toolkit.


Middle School Functional Model Middle School Student Model Table Middle School Teacher 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This paper has benefited from discussions with Julia Svoboda. We also thank Steven Gray at Rutgers University for his contributions to early parts of this work. We are grateful to the United States National Science Foundation [Grant (#0632519)] and the United States Institute for Education Sciences (Grant #R305A090210) for their support of their work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Design & Intelligence LaboratorySchool of Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.School of Computer ScienceGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Graduate School of EducationRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  4. 4.Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural ResourcesSchool of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  5. 5.Department of Educational PsychologyRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  6. 6.Center for Play, Science and Technology Learning (SciPlay)Rutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  7. 7.Rutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

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