NASA/GLOBE Hand Down Pollution Studies to Calif. Students
After a month of NASA airplanes zooming over California's Central Valley to study air pollution, teachers at local schools are preparing to hand over local air pollution research to their students.
The Central Valley area in California, known for having air quality issues, was the second field deployment for NASA's DISCOVER-AQ (Deriving Information on Surface conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality), which uses two NASA aircraft, the NASA King Air and P-3B, to understand how to better measure air pollution down at the surface – where people live and breathe – from space.
Central Valley will also be the location of a teacher workshop in March, aimed at giving teachers the tools and resources to parlay interest in the DISCOVER-AQ campaign into some science lessons for students.
"The presence of the DISCOVER-AQ team brings attention to studying atmospheric conditions, such as contrails, haze and relative humidity. More importantly, it provides a good example for students of a research project with a well-thought out experimental design," explains Jessica Taylor, a scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., a U. S. Partner of the GLOBE Program (Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment. The GLOBE Program is a worldwide, hands-on environmental science program, and the DISCOVER-AQ mission is working with GLOBE Partners in California to conduct local teacher workshops.
Taylor and her colleagues brought a group of teachers from the Los Angeles and San Joaquin Valley areas to Langley to "train the trainer," a model that NASA is using to send out ambassadors to spread information about student research initiatives to other teachers.
One of the GLOBE Master Trainers that returned from Langley to host the teacher workshops in California is Peggy Foletta. Foletta teaches at Kingsburg High School in Kingsburg, Calif., which happens to be one of the original GLOBE schools that began collecting GLOBE data in the mid 1990s. Foletta's high school was also right underneath the flight path of the DISCOVER-AQ planes, and her students even chatted directly with the pilots and scientists on board the aircraft.
"Our workshop here in Kingsburg will be unique because NASA was collecting specific data on our biggest environmental issue around here – air quality. Even though students aren't up in the airplane, they can still work on the same data," explained Foletta. "Students will be analyzing data about the air they breathe every day, and that kind of science is so personal."
The workshops - one to be held in Los Angeles, Calif. and the other to be held in the Kingsburg, target teachers in middle school and high school. The teachers talk about lessons based around air quality, meteorological events and how those events affect air quality. Teachers are also oriented with GLOBE's atmospheric investigation area and learn how those protocols fit in with next generation science standards.
"I think another important part of these workshops is that it creates a community of teachers," said Henry Ortiz, one of the GLOBE Master Trainers for the workshops and teacher at North Hollywood High School in North Hollywood, Calif. "We want science teachers to know they have resources in addition to other teachers. NASA also has ideas and resources – from elementary school on up - that help with bringing this hands-on science into the classroom."
The GLOBE Program offers a multitude of investigation areas and consistent instrument specifications to ensure reliable student research across the world. The program also offers teachers field guides, visualization tools and data sheets intended to help students collect accurate and useful scientific data about the world around them. The student data is then made available to the public, for students and scientists to use in their studies.
"When I started teaching, one of my goals was to get students to understand their environment scientifically. I didn't want students to just say, 'It's so polluted out there.' I want them to take it further and know how to collect data to determine whether or not is really is polluted," said Foletta.
Ortiz and Foletta are planning to host the workshop in North Hollywood from February 23 to February 24, 2013, and the workshop in Kingsburg will be from March 9 to 10, 2013. Teachers who are interested can register at http://www.globe.gov/events/workshops.
Jessica Taylor and her colleagues at Langley also plan to do more workshops during the next DISCOVER-AQ deployment to Houston, Texas in September 2013.
For information about the GLOBE Program, visit www.globe.gov
To find out more about the DISCOVER-AQ field campaign, visit http://discover-aq.larc.nasa.gov/
NASA's Langley Research Center