NASA GLOBE Clouds Teacher Highlight: Gary Popiolkowski

The NASA GLOBE Clouds team is excited to highlight Mr. Gary Popiolkowski, a middle school science teacher at Chartiers-Houston Jr./Sr. High School in Houston, PA, USA. Mr. Popiolkowski has been teaching for 44 years and has been a GLOBE teacher since 1995. He has had his students doing cloud observations for the past 18 years, submitting over 15,000 observations! He has also been doing virtual connections with Patumwan Demonstration School in Thailand each year for the past four years.

We ask Mr. Popiolkowski how he does it! Here is what he shared:

Each period of the day the students take cloud observations.  At lunch they upload their observations.  At the end of the day in study hall they look at the return emails from NASA to see how close they were in their observations.

Why do you submit cloud observations to NASA? 

Three reasons:


  1. It gives the students a sense of “Our observations are important and they need us to do this.
  2. The students get practice at observing, critical thinking as to what kind of clouds, the heights, the opacity, you can have many types of clouds at the same time. 
  3. It gets the student to take responsibility and be serious.  As an example, I overheard them years ago saying, “We can’t mess this up cause the scientists are depending on us!”

What you think is most interesting about cloud observations?

You don’t need fancy equipment to participate.  Gets them to use a dichotomous key at the beginning.  They begin to notice patterns of clouds and the weather associated with them or what kind of clouds to expect or predict. 

What is one of your most memorable moments about doing cloud observations?

We were outside taking cloud observations and ground temperature with an infrared thermometer.  After identifying the types of clouds, some students noticed snow on the sidewalk and grass but not on our artificial turf.  So we took measurements of the turf and found out it was warmer by around 6-8 degrees.  At the same time a student pointed the infrared thermometer towards the clouds.  He said he had a really cold temperature reading. 



We decided for the rest of the year we would take cloud temperature measurements and found low cloud [had warmer] temperatures and higher clouds were colder.  Several days later, the assistant principal said he saw us outside and asked what we were doing.  I told him what we found out.  He told me he just read an article about our new turf and that they would have to spray the turf with a chemical to control the growth of bacteria because the field was going to be warmer.  Two cool things occurring because we were out there observing clouds. 



 Mr. Popiolkowski was a 2016 GLOBE Distinguished Educator Fello. He has presented at NSTA conferences on project based learning for over 10 years. He has 5 grandchildren and has coached boys and girls Varsity baseball, golf, and cross country. 


The NASA GLOBE Clouds team congratulates

Mr. Popiolkowski for his amazing work and dedication.

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