Best Practices–Internet

Students across the country are making real contributions to scientific research and keeping their eyes on the environment by participating in a worldwide network of weather data collection.

Students observe clouds, precipitation, temperature, soil, water, and ground cover on a regular basis and submit their data to an online databank used by scientists for research.

This data-collection program, operated by Global Learning and Observations to the Benefit of the Environment (GLOBE), is designed as a hands-on way for educators to teach children science, technology, and math.

“They don’t just listen. They don’t just watch. They do it,” said Hank Roden, a GLOBE representative. This kind of learning ignites children’s interest and increases their retention of information, he said. “At the end of the school day, they don’t throw their work away,” Roden said, they submit their findings to the databank.

GLOBE is a worldwide network of teachers, students, and scientists working together to understand the earth’s weather. More than 7,000 secondary and elementary schools in 80 countries participate.

The program was developed and is funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Teachers at all grade levels can incorporate GLOBE into their curriculum. The program is appropriate for all grade levels, because the sophistication needed for each activity varies by age group. “It’s pretty flexible,” said teacher Judy Jerolaman. “You can choose how in-depth you’d like to get.”

Jerolaman said she uses the program to teach advanced-placement environmental science to 11th- and 12th-grade students at Gill St. Bernard’s School in Gladstone, N.J.

“We test the different parameters of the water stream [at our school] once a week,” Jerolaman said. Her students examine a variety of things, including dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, alkalinity, and conductivity. “If they see a change with the water, they wonder why.”

The GLOBE program emphasizes the process of scientific research, Roden said—not just the content of scientific theories. “Science isn’t about providing answers as much as it is about asking questions,” he said.

Florence Melda, a teacher at Pickens Elementary School in Jasper, Ga., who has taught the GLOBE program off and on for the past several years, said it made her students more aware of their surroundings. “They had a better appreciation of the environment” and were less likely to litter, she said.

She said she uses the program to teach her fourth- and fifth-grade students about clouds, air temperature, and water temperature. “We just keep it basic.”

To make the program work at her grade level, Melda said, “you have to have kids in the class [who] are good leaders.” She teaches the stronger students how to do the measurements so they can help show others.

GLOBE provides teachers with free training, an extensive web page, and a guidance manual. In addition, program officials are developing 20 how-to videos, Roden said.

The online databank has 4 million observations from kids around the world on various subjects, including clouds, trees, and local streams, he said.

Through the web site, students can access data from other schools and communicate via eMail with scientists who use their data. “The programs are designed so the kids could do them, and they are accurate,” he said.

Scientists at GLOBE regularly look through the data, and if they notice major discrepancies, they eMail the students to find out why, Roden said.

The scientists also hold regular web chats to interact with the students and to encourage them to analyze their findings.

Teachers interested in the program can sign up for an intense five-day training course on the GLOBE web site. Schools must supply their own equipment and have web access to participate. Jerolaman said the operating supplies cost her school $500 to $600, not including refills.


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