Local Science Teach
By Sharon McIntire We all know, especially after the past few months, that teaching is hard, challenging work. But some of us are just gluttons for punishment. Hannah VanScotter teaches seventh grade science at Jefferson Montessori Academy. No, wait:she also teaches eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade science Monday-Thursday. If that’s not enough, as a certified GLOBE teacher, she oversees GLOBE Club on Fridays. She has approximately 40 students in seventh and eighth grade, and 20 biology students in ninth grade that can participate in her GLOBE program through in-class learning activities. Other students, especially the younger ones in second through fifth grade, take advantage of the Friday GLOBE Club to whet their appetite for science.It’s not that she planned to be a GLOBE teacher. The job was placed in her lap when she returned to the Early College High School following maternity leave. Since cooperative learning was her preferred style of teaching, that was okay with her. It just meant more work. A product of NASA, GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) was born on Earth Day in 1994 and became global in 1995. It now operates in 22,240 schools in 122 countries on continents all over the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. According to its website, www.globe.gov, GLOBE’s purpose is to give students the opportunity to participate in data collection and the scientific process, and to contribute to our understanding of the Earth system and global environment.VanScotter has taught GLOBE in a variety of ways for the past three years: seventh and eighth grade integrated science, seventh grade Earth and space science, ninth grade biology, tenth grade physics and eleventh grade chemistry. In addition, Friday’s GLOBE Club students sign up to work on individual projects during the afternoon of their early-out day.“I implement GLOBE with about 40 students in seventh and eighth grade, and 20 biology students in ninth grade,” she says. “I introduce students to GLOBE through the atmosphere protocols, collecting data on a weather station.” VanScotter is grateful to receive help for her new science program. In addition to the monetary support of a five-year grant from Globe Mission Earth (GME), a branch of GLOBE, she is quick to acknowledge the support of her principal, Stacey Frakes, as well as that of New Mexico’s local GLOBE coordinator. “Christy Wall, the New Mexico GLOBE person who helps all the teachers, brought us all the equipment. She was open to speaking with my students and helped us figure out the equipment: the bat box, weather station, barometer, thermometer, precipitation gauge.” And in addition to activities and suggestions on their website, GLOBE offers professional development twice a yearfor participating teachers. Unfortunately, Wall was unavailable when Carlsbad’s intrepid scientists ran into trouble setting up their weather station. “Starting a weather station in southeastern New Mexico can be a special challenge,”VanScotter admits. “Our station here fell over three times because of the winds we have here, so my students and I concreted it three times!” The GLOBE curriculum provides activities and investigations about the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and soil/pedosphere and thenconnects students, teachers,
scientists, and citizens from all over the world who conduct real, hands-on science about their local environment. This collected information is submitted to the GLOBE website and to NASA where it is analyzed and compared on aglobal perspective. “One of last year’s projects was to see a connection between the amount of carbon dioxide and aerosols in the air. A soil fertility project compared the Pecos River water quality to soil fertility. Another project studied a one-meter deep trench to look atsoil fertility at different levels. One looked at the amount of nitrates and dissolved oxygen before and after the Brantley Lake Dam.And one project studied aerosols and humidity in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, using a sun photometer.” Her studentslove it. “Knowing that they’re helping real scientists in real time makes the learning more legitimate, more genuine, because they see that their work is of value to scientists around the world.” She added that it wasn’t unusual to receive an email from ascientist who asked them to compare their satellite images to what the students were seeing on the ground at that time. That, in turn, confirmed to these young scientists that what they were doing –today –during their typical school day had real value to scientists in Langley, VA. This proud teacher notes that many of her students “are not traditional science students.” A large majority of them are female, and some who struggle in school find their niche in the challenge of GLOBE. “It’s so rewarding to me that many of my students who have learning issues or behavioral issues find success with science,” she boasts. And succeed they certainly do. Each year GLOBE holds a symposium in the spring where these students showcase their projects. VanScotter’s scientists have travelled to Boulder, CO and Mescalero, NM to meet with topnotch scientists and explain the results of their year-long experiments. They arrive on Friday and these young scientists from all over the world spend the day collaborating on a science project. Saturday is presentation day. Students set up their projects, which they’ve worked on for at least one semester, in a conference-style poster. Then their teachers are asked to leave the room (where they spend their time in professional development) and students have the opportunity to explain the purpose of their projects and the results they have accumulated. “It’s not so much a judging process as it is a learning process,” their teacher states. “The scientists discuss more than evaluate the projects, and the students are so excited to be able to showcase what they’ve done and discuss what they’ve discovered in the process that there’s less of a competitive environment and more of a celebratory one.” And, “Prizes are given, not for first through third place, but for things like Best Methods, or Greatest Community Impact, or Most Professional.” Of perhaps equal importance are the social lessons that turn these children into professionals. “They do things they’ve never done before,” she notes, “like shake hands and introduce themselves.” This feisty science teacher must know what she’s doing. Last year at the Mescalero symposium a two-member team of girls was selected to attend the GLOBE annual meeting in Detroit. There they spent one week exploring science on a nature reserve. Their goal was to develop and present a science project with other students from all around the world. Carlsbad’s students undoubtedly did well and enjoyed the experience. But their teacher reports that among the most poignant memories they brought back were of teaching South Americans how to make s’mores, and that pillow fights can be enjoyed on an international level. Maybe they picked up a little political science as well.