Stars and STEM Stories
Lexington School for the Deaf Students (New York, USA) Discover their Power to Contribute to Science in a Significant Way
In March 2018, GLOBE students at the Lexington School for the Deaf (located in East Elmhurst, New York, USA) began participating in the GLOBE U.S. Air Quality Student Research Campaign. Raising their focus to the sky, the high school students soon became adept at using GLOBE’s atmosphere protocols and Calitoo sun photometers to gather their elevated observations. Along the way, they also discovered their ability – as individuals and as a team – to make significant contributions to science.
The students’ teacher, Jillian Anderson, said she was contacted by NASA Langley Research Center (Hampton, Virginia, USA) to see if she was interested in joining the research campaign. “I started reading about GLOBE and I immediately jumped into this amazing opportunity.”
At that time, she and her assistant teacher, Dolly Dominguez, and their students – with the help of their new mentor, NASA Research Scientist Dr. Margaret Pippin – began their scientific observation adventure toward higher ground – all eyes to the skies!
Anderson didn’t hesitate to guide her students deeper into this inquiry-based activity. “Part of my teaching philosophy is that I believe that science should be accessible to everyone. There is no reason any individual person, or group of persons, should feel precluded from obtaining an education, especially an education in science.”
Anderson said that joining the campaign was a “perfect fit” for her students. “GLOBE’s educational materials have been an invaluable resource for my students, who struggle with English, and rely heavily on visuals. As a team, they have been collecting atmospheric data virtually every day. They have learned to observe different features of the sky and they have also started to become comfortable using a Calitoo sun photometer.”
The scientific endeavor gave the students new-found confidence – in themselves and in each other. “My students have started to realize that they are indeed contributing to science in a significant way! Not only are they learning about Earth science, but they have also started to understand the impact each individual has on the Earth, as a system,” Anderson said.
The students’ dedicated focus and enthusiasm for engaging in this project deeply impressed their NASA mentor, Dr. Pippin. “Seeing these students doing science is quite inspiring. Their collaboration skills are impressive. Each one has a role to contribute to their team work. For instance, one student is in charge of converting the local time to UTC, while another checks the barometric pressure on a weather website. They all observe the sky, they compare their notes with each other, and they help one another when they have questions.”
In May 2018, the students – along with their teachers and school administrators – had the opportunity to connect (via video conference) with NASA scientists and engineers. During the event, the scientists spent time getting to know more about the students and answering their questions.
A special guest, William Wood (from the Electronic System Branch), joined the meeting to talk to the students about his 25-year engineering career at NASA Langley. Wood, who is also Deaf, talked to the students about working hard and being proud of being Deaf. (This unique opportunity to connect with Wood, Anderson said, “was a very powerful experience” for the students.)
When asked about the importance of this scientific work for her students, Anderson said that she wanted her students to acknowledge that they can significantly contribute to science. “I think it is important for my students to realize that they have great skills that can help others. Since American Sign Language is a visual language, these students’ visual skills are top-notch! Therefore; their observations may very well be amongst the most reliable. My students’ involvement in GLOBE may bring awareness and interest in Deaf culture to other GLOBE students, teacher, and scientists – and that is very important to me as well.”
“The participation of Lexington School for the Deaf students is important to GLOBE,” Anderson said, “because it can inspire others to include underrepresented students so that GLOBE can have a very rich and diverse group of citizen scientists collaborating with each other.”
NASA’s Dr. Pippin agreed. “We encourage them to keep up their great work, and we invite other schools to continue submitting their observations to the GLOBE website as well.”
The students crafted a special video to share their scientific excursion into the clouds. To watch the video and learn more about their scientific work, click here.
This STAR Story was contributed by Rosalba Giarratano, GLOBE Intern, Science Systems and Applications, Inc./NASA Langley Research Center.