GLOBE opens windows, then doors, from dirt roads to a scientifically-literate world

In the spring of 2017, The GLOBE Program, an international science and education program sponsored by NASA, and supported by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the U.S. Department of State (DoS), held six regional Student Research Symposia (SRS) where GLOBE data-collection protocols were used.

In this series of feature stories, we are able to see some of the teacher/student teams who were present at these symposia.


Sixth grader Ava and her peers at Alpena Middle School in Alpena, Arkansas, face some strong headwinds in their academic journeys. Alpena is a deeply rural, low income farming community. Many travel to school on dirt roads. Few families have home access to the Internet, and some who do access through dial-up. Only recently have party line phones become a thing of the past. Seventy percent of students are eligible for free or reduced lunches, and the number who have learning disabilities is high. 

A recent catastrophe has also taken its emotional toll on Ava. “My mom and stepdad lost their jobs due to the hurricane where they live in Texas,” she said. “They still have their house, but where they work was damaged really bad.” 

Southeast SRS Poster
Ava at the 2017 Southeast SRS

But the past year had some amazing bright times for Ava, who took her GLOBE research project to the Student Research Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama last AprilHer project was recognized as exemplary by the reviewers (Allyson, another Alpena student, was also recognized)In addition, Ava’s project won many state science fair awards, made an enormous impression on an Arkansas advisory committee of businessmen and educators, and her entire GLOBE experience has given her a clear-eyed view of how she imagines her future. 

“I’m going to be a doctor,” Ava says with dramatic assurance. She sees herself working overseas on medical missions in poor countries. “I’m interested in poverty,” Ava said. “As I did my research, I talked to people at local churches about work in Central America. I’m interested in maybe trying to go there when I get older.” 

“Ava used GLOBE data about the atmosphere and temperature to identify an area of the world that has a hot, dry climate and researched areas with a high poverty rate and poor housing,” said Roger Rose, Ava’s science teacher and her GLOBE mentor at Alpena Middle School. “Then she designed models of three different types of house roofing and siding that people with limited resources could build just with wood, aluminum cans, and cardboard.” Ava then conducted controlled temperature tests inside and outside her models to find material that will keep the inside temperature cool for hot climates. 

Roger Rose’s own journey to hands-on science 

Although Roger is now in his fifteenth year of teaching fifth and sixth grade science, he has engaged in practical hands-on science throughout his career. “I grew up in construction for many years, then worked on a cattle ranch, and in the water well industry,” he said. “Then I decided to go back to school to become a teacher.” He now works GLOBE protocols into all of his science teaching and helps K-12 teachers and students create science research projects using GLOBE concepts and tools.  

Like many GLOBE teachers, Roger takes his curriculum clues from where his students live. “The environment is big in this area. We’ve got the Buffalo National River, several lakes on the White River, and Beaver Lake all within 30 minutes of the school,” he said. With large industrial farms nearby like “turkey farms and chicken farms, there’s controversy about issues of water quality, lakes recreation, and drinking water. Just south of us is a big commercial hog farm, and some are afraid it’s going to leak something into the tributaries,” such as Long Creek, which flows close to the middle school. 

“The effect of human activity on water and soil quality is related to GLOBE,” he said. “Since many farmers use poultry litter and cow and pig manure to grow grass on their pastures and meadows, there’s great potential for excess run-off into lakes, rivers, and streams.” 

Roger introduced GLOBE to his students with cloud and atmosphere protocols, “which has been really interesting with the hurricanes this year,” he said. Now he is ramping up soil and water studies, with simple questions like ‘what is the difference between soil and dirt?’ (a question of interest for children of farmers). Last year 85 students participated in GLOBE data collection on soil quality, which resulted in a presentation at the regional symposium. 

“Since I came up in construction, I work best with hands-on teaching,” said Roger. “That’s why I was drawn to GLOBE in the first place. Students who struggle in other aspects of learning just excel with hands-on science learning. It’s more meaningful for them to talk about the water when they have to cross creeks to get to school and they work on their parents’ fields. A lot of them have animals in 4H. Making science about the environment makes a wonderful difference.” 

Introducing Roger’s GLOBE partner 

As Roger is a guide and mentor for his students, Lynne Hehr, Director of the Center for Math and Science Education at the University of Arkansas, has served in the same roles for him. “She’s been invaluable, a great mentor to me, Roger said. 

Lynne is true GLOBE original, helping plant the seeds of the program in 1995. She is the emissary from the United States GLOBE Programcoordinated through the University of New Hampshire Leitzel Center, to the state of Arkansas, providing teachers with protocol materials, information about loans and grants, online and in-person training, and one-on-one support for teachers working to integrate GLOBE into their day-to-day science instruction. 

“We have 12 STEM centers in Arkansas and we’ve provided training for those who want to participate so they could provide more local support around the state, when I can’t get to some regions of the state,” Lynne said. “We usually introduce GLOBE to teachers with the atmosphere protocols on clouds and temperature. It’s a quick way for them to get in. We also have online trainings so they can rev up their knowledge.” 

Crucially, Lynne also works with pre-service teachers to get GLOBE certification in their portfolios—and make hands-on science feel natural for them on their first day of teaching. 

Lynne and Roger have built a strong foundation of professional support and friendship over time. “I’ve worked with Roger for years and years,” she said, even before GLOBE was off and running. “He participated in some EPA grants, science fairs, NCLB grants. Fairs are great because you can put a face on GLOBE, encourage people to look into it. Sometimes teachers have difficulty figuring out what to study because they don’t come from a research background, they don’t know what to use. We can give them GLOBE visualizations and data sets…there’s a lot of information there to take home and use.” 

“That’s one of the things Ava did,” Lynne said. “Students at Alpena are encouraged to explore and do projects that interest them. That says kudos to Roger. When they have ice and snow in Alpena, they close schools because the busses can’t run. Roger and his wife, Tammy, open up the schools so students can come in and do research.” (Roger also drives a school bus every day on those Alpena dirt roads; in poor communities, teachers take on many tasks.) 

Lynne is proud of Ava and Allyson’s award-winning work. “We have an Arkansas STEM coalition of business and education partners and I wanted them to see what two girls from Alpena had done. We paid for the girls and their parents to travel to show them their work. When I told them this is a fifth grader and this is a sixth grader, they were amazed…their mouths dropped. They had no idea students that young could do something that good.” 

Lynne echoes Roger’s thoughts about the rural nature of Alpena being an entry point for GLOBE. “Sometimes rural areas make it easier, students are around nature anyway, they can observe more easily. Kids who live in nature often have a scientific urge to want to know more. 

“That’s what Roger does,” Lynne continued. “He encourages students to try, question, observe. He has really stretched his kids. He places his emphasis on do your best, and reach further than Alpena. He just goes far and beyond.” 

Ava presents to peers at the
2017 Southeast SRS

The idea of going “far and beyond” is true of the annual regional Student Research Symposia. Ava’s trip to Alabama was exciting for her and her companions: Roger, Tammy, Ava’s grandmother, Allyson, and Allyson’s parents. “We had fun. We drove 500 miles. We got to talk to other people about the project from Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina. At first, we talked to other students who were also presenting their projects, then we talked to the panel of reviewers. 

Said Lynne Hehr, “They’re learning from one another at the symposia. Some bring a project, others see projects and say, oh, that’s what I could have done. They get ideas on how to display research and data, and they get encouragement.” The symposia also encourage teacher and student teams to communicate with each other, Lynne added, and ask how can we work doing a study together, from state to state, region to region, or with another country. 

“One of Roger’s students was looking at Thailand,” she said. “Just getting students to have a global perspective is a marvelous thing. The idea is that we’re creating lifelong learners when they’re young, and learning to think for themselves. 

“This is what Roger is doing: with this idea of ‘fake news,’ if he can get them to make their own justifications and claims, question something that’s being claimed, and look at the world from an evidence-based point of view, they develop lifelong learning sensibilities,” she said. 

“This is what it takes. Teachers who are invested. Not every student will become a scientist, but every student can become scientifically literate. With GLOBE, if we can open a window, then a door, students can see a world beyond Alpena, Arkansas.” 

—C.  Ralph Adler 


The GLOBE Program sponsored six 2018 Student Research Symposia funded by NASA Grant No. 80NSC18K0135.  For information on these, visit the 2018 Symposia pages. Bookmark the SRS webpage to stay updated on dates, locations, and application procedures for 2019. 

The 2017 Regional Research Symposia were funded by National Science Foundation Grant No. 1546713. Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. 

News origin: United States of America


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