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Making science culturally relevant at Sunridge Middle School

I had the pleasure to meet Jodie Harnden a few days ago. We were introduced by my former mentor, Dr. Margaret Pippin, who leads GLOBE’s U.S. Air Quality Student Research Campaign. Jodie is a teacher at Sunridge Middle School, in Pendleton, OR. She has been a GLOBE teacher since 2010 and has always looked for ways to teach science by having their students ‘DO SCIENCE’! Jodie and her students have been particularly involved in researching air quality, and Jodie shared with me how it has been a bit surprising for her students to discover that even though wildfires cause air quality issues in their area, the worst conditions actually happen during the winter due to the use of wood stoves! Students use the GLOBE Aerosols protocol that involves measuring aerosol optical thickness with a sun photometer. They also analyze air quality data from other sources such as Air Now, EPA, Oregon Air, and Purple Air monitors.

Something that was a highlight for me during my conversation with Jodie is how proactive she is to make her science lessons culturally relevant. About 20% of Sunridge’s student population is American Indian, and Jodie often incorporates Native American tales that tie with natural events. Not only that, but Jodie often has special guests from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation visit her class to perform science demonstrations, explain how they use different equipment to measure air quality, and even play games! Students also get the opportunity to show their own air quality research projects to people from the Tribal Natural Resources Office!

I am always inspired by the amazing teachers that are part of our GLOBE community, and today I am especially grateful for Jodie and the impact she has on her students. I’m sure we will hear much more from the future atmospheric scientists that are starting their careers at Sunridge Middle School.

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