Educator Stewardship Projects

The Earth Scientist - Full Publication

As of November 2017, the NOAA Planet Stewards Education Project will be known as the NOAA Planet Stewards Education Project. We are expanding our scope to include a wider range of NOAA topics related to understanding and protecting our environment. This means we will focus on a larger number of subjects such as decreasing the impacts of marine debris, conserving and restoring natural resources, and understanding and responding to severe weather events. We will continue our programmatic emphasis on climate as a driver of environmental impacts to humans and natural ecosystems.

This change will allow us to better serve many educators looking to engage their students in citizen science and hands-on stewardship activities that relate to the broad range of NOAA's mission programs.

In a 2016 edition of The Earth Scientist, educators who participated in the previous NOAA Planet Stewards program shared stories, innovations, and resources that you may find useful in your education setting. The articles include links to background information, supporting materials, and student worksheets you can download and adapt. They reflect the enthusiasm, hard work and success of educators, their students and communities. If you would like to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by a similar program - NOAA Planet Stewards - to increase understanding in STEM and environmental education topics, you can read more about it here. We hope you enjoy this special issue produced in cooperation with the National Earth Science Teacher’s Association.

Empowering Young Women Through Planet Stewardship: A Lesson about Earth’s Changing Albedo

students collecting data using a light sensor

Students collecting data using a light sensor.

A Planet Stewards Club was established as an after school high school program to empower young women as community leaders who would be then both willing and capable of addressing their peers and the public about issues related to global climate change. The student club identified the need to support climate literacy in the middle school by providing opportunities for learners to engage in hands-on activities that assist student understanding of how Earth’s climate system works. The students and their mentor developed an engaging, hands-on lesson that allows students to learn about the feedback loop that describes the ice-albedo effect. The process of how a team of high school students developed the lesson and associated materials is described.The outcomes of this peer-facilitated lesson as well as the benefits of the after school club focused on climate stewardship are discussed.

About the Authors

Natalie Macke has been a secondary science teacher for more than 15 years in New Jersey. In 2012 her selection for participation in the NOAA Planet Stewards Education Project prompted her to establish a girl’s STEM club focusing on Planet Stewardship at Pascack Hills High School. In addition, she developed a fifteen-week honors-level course on Climate Change offered by the Virtual High School (http://thevhscollaborative.org/). In 2015 she was the recipient of the Princeton Distinguished Secondary Teaching Award.

Ilana Char, Samyukta Mahendra Kumar, Brittany Hudson, Ako Matsumura and Sahiba Sikand are all students at Pascack Hills High School in Montvale, New Jersey. These young ladies have been members of their school’s Planet Stewards club since 2013 and are responsible for the development and implementation of the middle school lesson shared in this article about Earth’s Changing Albedo. They will all graduate in 2016 and may be reached via their teacher, Natalie Macke.

Empowering Young Women Through Planet Stewardship: A Lesson about Earth’s Changing Albedo

Carbon Footprints, Carbon Sinks, and Carbon Stewardship: A Partnership Between Informal Educators and Classroom Teachers

Restored freshwater wetlands see the close of another day at Pickering Creek Audubon Center in Easton, Maryland

Restored freshwater wetlands see the close of another day at Pickering Creek Audubon Center in Easton, Maryland.

Pickering Creek Audubon Center of Easton, Maryland, developed and tested an introductory science unit on global climate change in six, fifth grade classes. Through a series of lessons, students progressed through the topics of carbon, the carbon cycle, greenhouse gases, and climate change. Students learned how our actions affect the global climate, how climate change impacts local habitats and wildlife, and how we can slow the effects of climate change by decreasing our carbon source intake while increasing the planet’s carbon sinks. Common climate change myths and misconceptions were addressed, and opportunities were provided for students to learn in the classroom and outdoors. Students engaged in age-appropriate climate change solutions by helping decrease their household’s carbon footprint, increasing the schoolyard’s carbon sink, sharing their knowledge with the community, and encouraging others to take action.

About the Authors

Krysta Hougen is a Teacher Naturalist and the Summer EcoCamp Director at Pickering Creek Audubon Center in Easton, MD. She has an M.S. in Plant Biology from Ohio University.

Jaime Bunting is the Education Manager at Pickering Creek Audubon Center in Easton, MD. She has an M.S. in Natural Resources with a concentration in Environmental Education and Interpretation from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Previously, Jaime worked as a Field Instructor in Wisconsin at Conserve School and UWSP-Treehaven, and as an Interpretive Naturalist and Environmental Educator for Delaware State Parks.

Carbon Footprints, Carbon Sinks, and Carbon Stewardship: A Partnership Between Informal Educators and Classroom Teachers

Student Anti-Idling Campaign: Service Learning in Deed

Student concept map showing environmental factors around the campus.

Student concept map showing environmental factors around the campus.

Adding a science service learning project to a standard inquiry-based environmental science curriculum helped fifth grade students learn climate science as they made connections between a real-world problem and their classroom learning. Students brainstormed, researched, and developed a project to address idling in the carpool lane at school. They collected and analyzed data, and used it to build a compelling anti-idling campaign for the school community.

About the Author

Dale Glass is the Science Coordinator at National Presbyterian School, an independent N-6th grade school in Washington, DC. She earned a MS in Science Education from Montana State University, a MS in Applied Mathematics from University of Texas at Dallas, and a ScB in Biomedical Engineering from Brown University. Her interests include service learning and teacher education through NOAA’s Planet Stewards Education Program.

Student Anti-Idling Campaign: Service Learning in Deed

The Polar Bear Challenge: Local Impact on a Global Issue

polar bear

In 2007 Utah’s Hogle Zoo became an Arctic Ambassador Site for Polar Bears International (PBI) and created The Polar Bear Challenge. This competitive program engages elementary and middle school students to reduce their carbon footprints, make a difference for the future of polar bears, and positively affect the people and wildlife of Utah. Averaging 2,300 participants during the last two years, the program has developed Climate Care teaching kits and a curriculum comparing Utah’s habitats and wildlife to Alaska’s to helping students understand the interconnectedness of these ecosystems, and how our actions impact the animals, plants and people who make their homes there.

About the Author

Christine Schmitz is the Education Curator at Utah’s Hogle Zoo. She has worked in informal science education for over 30 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Scripps College and a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Portland State University.

The Polar Bear Challenge: Local Impact on a Global Issue

The Biggest Reducer: A Lesson in Waste Reduction

The Biggest Reducer logo

The Biggest Reducer program was developed to educate students about the growing problem of food-related waste and incite them to take action to reduce waste production during their daily lunches. Through recording of weekly waste production and an in-school assembly a 50% waste reduction was seen.

About the Author

Brandon Smith is the Environmental Program Supervisor for Brevard County Parks and Recreation at Riverwalk Nature Center in Rockledge, FL. For 15 years, he has taught and designed environmental education programs mainly focused on the Indian River Lagoon estuary. He has served on the boards of the Florida Marine Science Educators Association, Space Coast Science Education Alliance, Sea Turtle Preservation Society, and Friends of the Carr Refuge. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology from the Florida Institute of Technology.

The Biggest Reducer: A Lesson in Waste Reduction

Biochar for Carbon Sequestration: Investigation and Outreach

Biochar header image

Greenhouse gases are impacting Earth's climate and will continue to do so at elevated rates until we find ways to mitigate our actions. Biochar production via pyrolysis is a means to sequester carbon for the soil long term. Biochar is highly resistant to breakdown and thus becomes a sink for carbon storage. This strategy is accessible to students and can give a sense of empowerment to make change. In the course of this unit, students learn about the carbon cycle while producing biochar, testing biochar’s value as a soil amendment, and providing outreach on the carbon cycle to other students and the public.

About the Author

Karen Metcalf is a middle school science teacher and IB Coordinator at Cornerstone Learning Community in Tallahassee, Florida. She was a marine ecologist with a B.S. (Eckerd College), and M.A. (College of William and Mary) in marine science. Ten years in high school and middle school classrooms have allowed her to bring her love of the process of science and the marine environment to students. Karen’s goal is to teach science concepts while encouraging students to value sustainability, practice environmental conservation, and use critical thinking. Membership in NOAA’s Planet Stewards Education Project has facilitated special projects that support these goals. She is also the leader of Cornerstone’s Maker Club.

Biochar for Carbon Sequestration: Investigation and Outreach