Stars and STEM Stories
GLOBE Students in Malta Engage in Science – and Walk for Fun – To “Be Part of the Solution” for a Greener Tomorrow
In early 2019, GLOBE middle school students in Gozo, Malta, focused on studying the effects of trees on urban temperatures in their surrounding communities. "This is our first year participating in The GLOBE Program, and we would like to share our investigation and how we went a step further to involve the wider community and be part of the solution to Climate Change," Ramona Mercieca, a teacher at Gozo College Middle School said.
"The alarming rate at which trees are being chopped off when ‘upgrading’ streets and the excessive rate of building in an already densely populated area prompted us to study, in detail, urban temperatures," Mercieca said.
The purpose of the study was to investigate the impacts trees have on urban heat islands (UHIs). In order to accomplish this,the students recorded the surface temperature from two different areas: built-up areas (concrete/asphalt), and grassy patches with trees planted nearby.
"The main objective," Mercieca said, "was to find out the temperature differences between these two sites. Results showed that the more trees there are, the less difference in temperature. Results support the statement that lack of trees contributes to the formation of UHIs. Having discovered all this, the students went a step further. They wanted to be part of the change and not just pointing fingers and complaining about the environmental degradation. Thus, they came up with an innovative idea on how to promote the growth of indigenous and endemic trees. Using recycled materials, of which toilet paper rolls and newspapers, the students prepared over 450 seed packs, with seeds collected locally. The seed packs were given out to students, teachers, school staff, and people from the general community who saw the advertisements and participated in the Climate Action Fun Walk."
"The aim of this walk was to raise awareness about climate change and the need for action. The students also carried out research on the various local trees and shrubs of which they distributed seed packs, including: Judas Tree, Myrtle, Aleppo Pine, Lentisk, the Maltese Everlasting, Wild Thyme, and many more."
"It is important to us because, through the data collected, it was concluded that trees do have a positive effect on deceasing the UHI effect as they provide shade, lower temperatures of the surrounding areas, increase transpiration, and absorb carbon dioxide. This study contributes significantly to the importance of trees and the need to increase the number of open spaces in urban areas. In urban areas there are heat islands, so it is ideal to try to cool them. Planting more trees in city centers would lower the temperature, improve air quality, and cool the surfaces, and will provide a welcoming habitat for fauna and places for people to sit and relax."
"This is actually the reason why the students took the initiative and went a step further," their teacher said. "They wanted to set the example and be part of the change. Through the Climate Action Fun Walk, the wider community got a better understanding of what’s happening in our built-up environments. The students explained their investigation and findings and suggested ways on how city centers can be made cooler."
"The walk was an action to combat global warming and participants were able to view an exhibition in the school grounds, which highlighted Sustainable Development Goals. Students also learned about the importance of trees in combating global warming, and got to know about various indigenous trees and shrubs which grow in the Maltese Islands. At the end of the walk, participants were given a seed pack to take home and hence start planting more trees NOW."
"We feel it is important to GLOBE because we managed to: involve the local community through the Climate Action Fun Walk; introduce the community, students, and teachers to The GLOBE Program (not only in our school and town, but throughout the Maltese Islands – because the Climate Action Fun Walk was featured on a popular local television program); and link our investigation to environmental issues and provide solutions," Mercieca said.