Stars and STEM Stories
100,000 Points of Data
Recently, four juniors at Norfork High School; Renee L., Jacob M., Breanna V., and Kendra R. visited their former science classroom to celebrate the schools' achievement of reaching 100,000 points of data. The purpose of their visit was to share their enthusiasm for GLOBE with the present sixth graders and teach them how to take atmospheric measurements. These youth were members of the first class to take GLOBE measurements in 1999; the year that Norfork Elementary School implemented the GLOBE Program. Renee exemplified this enthusiasm when she accepted responsibility for collecting atmospheric data during the summer vacation months in 2000.
Reflecting on their GLOBE experience Breanna tells the sixth graders, "I still look up in the sky and recognize the various types of clouds that I see. I doubt that I could do that were it not for the GLOBE activities that we did." When shown an old photograph of her wading in the North Fork of the White River to collect a turbidity tube sample, she remarked, "I remember that. We learned just how clear our local water is. We need to keep it that clear, forever." "GLOBE helped me because I cannot just read things and understand them," Kendra related, "I like to actually see things for myself." Jacob remembered that while learning how to take soil temperature data he also learned some problem solving skills. "I remember Mr. Geery getting on me for pushing the stem too far into the ground. After that we used a wooden dowel that covered the needle to ensure the correct depth was measured."
"Celebrating 100,000 GLOBE measurements seems like a good time to reflect upon our program accomplishments for the past six years," says Mr. Wade Geery, their science teacher and local GLOBE coordinator. "Involving my former fifth grade students in our celebration seemed a fitting tribute to the legacy of all those students that have diligently contributed to our program's success over the years.
On August 25th, 2005, these students and their accomplishments were also featured in Mountain Home, Arkansas, The Baxter Bulletin, under the section 'Weatherwatchers'. In an interview by Bulletin staff writer Chandra Huston, Wade Geery explains why be believes these students are so deeply committed to the GLOBE activities, "Each grade does something, whether it is counting hummingbirds that visit their feeders, measuring the size of leaves as they sprout each spring, or recording the color and date that leaves drop in the fall," he said. "By the time students reach the sixth grade, they can tackle metric measurements, all the weather instruments and even conduct water quality titrations, and do each equally well." Each year new protocols were added to the students' schedules, new procedures developed to permit routine access to field locations, and new instruments were purchased; all this was done to expand student experience in scientific research. Experiment design and data analysis are beyond the ability of most young students but that hasn't stopped them from recognizing data trends, troubleshooting unreasonable data, and validating concepts taught in their text. I am always over-estimating what my students can do or learn each day; but, at times like this, I realize just how much I have under-estimated what they can accomplish over several years".
Dr. David Brooks, a research professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia and the GLOBE Aerosol PI, presented the remarkable accomplishments made by Norfork students at the 2005 GLOBE annual meeting in Prague. He commented on the accuracy and the continuity of the data and in an email interview with the Baxter Bulletin he stated, "Although I have no doubt that a lot of 'data filtering' went on at the teacher end, it is nonetheless extremely rare to find such a reliable source of sun photometer measurements." He went on to explain, "This is especially remarkable considering the age of Wade's students. Sun photometer measurements are used to calculate aerosol optical thickness, a measure of the concentration of aerosols in the atmosphere. It is especially interesting to see reliable aerosol data from a rural area such as Norfork."
The Bulletin also interviewed Matt Rogers, a Colorado State University scientist who is working on a project comparing cloud observations reported by GLOBE student with satellite imagery. "By looking at areas where the two observations differ, we are learning about how to improve both surface and satellite observations of clouds," he reported to the Bulletin. "As you may know, satellite observations of clouds are very important to many aspects of atmospheric science, from assessing climate change to forecasting next week's weather, and we're constantly looking for new ways to make better and more accurate satellite observations. In order to do that, we need lots of surface stations to compare with, and GLOBE schools fit the bill perfectly." According to Rogers, the data gathered by students at Norfork Elementary School (NES) as well as other schools around the world has been very valuable for scientific studies.
Dr. Jim Washburne, GLOBE Soil Moisture scientist at University of Arizona, has had many opportunities to communicate with Mr. Geery's students, of which he writes: Wade and his students have been great to work with - both for their persistence and quality of data collected. Wade makes an effort to work with GLOBE scientists but also relies on his own initiative to identify local issues or opportunities to motivate and apply his student's interest in environmental science. His program exemplifies the concept of students becoming the local experts on their local environment.
One of the key factors that contribute to the success of Mr. Wade Geery and his students is the efforts of the Arkansas GLOBE Partnership at University of Arkansas, Fayetteville where Mr. Geery attended his initial training in 1999. Housed within the University of Arkansas Center for Mathematics and Science Education/Arkansas NASA Educator Resource Center, this partnership under the leadership of Ms. Lynne Hehr has been educating GLOBE teachers since 1996. Over 400 teachers from 210 schools have been trained in the GLOBE Protocols, creating over 251,419 observations and counting. This partnership nurtures both pre-service and in-service teachers, hosting one-day to one-week workshops during the calendar year. When teachers can't come to the University of Arkansas for training, Ms. Hehr's motto is "Have GLOBE, will travel!"