In the following editions of The Earth Scientist, a peer reviewed science education journal published by The National Earth Science Teachers Association, educators who completed projects supported by NOAA Planet Stewards shared stories, innovations, and resources that you may find useful in your own education setting. These articles include links to background information, supporting materials, and student worksheets available for you to download and adapt. They reflect the enthusiasm, hard work and success of educators, their students, and communities. We hope you enjoy these special issues produced in cooperation with the National Earth Science Teachers Association. Find out more about NOAA Planet Stewards and how you can receive support to carry out a hands-on stewardship project.

Projects from the spring 2021 edition of The Earth Scientist

Runaway Carbon Cycle: Reducing Carbon Emissions through Understanding and Action

Students in rural schools can produce substantial gains in environmental literacy through engaging activities on the carbon cycle and stewardship activities. The following article describes a NOAA Planet Stewards project that was intended to be one year in duration but is on-going into its second year due to the pandemic. Survey results document that substantial attitudinal and behavioral changes can be gained in areas of the country not normally served by curbside recycling programs through stewardship activities focused on recycling, reducing, and reusing materials in relation to saving atmospheric carbon. While the pandemic initially disrupted and delayed the project, it also forced the project to explore new ways to recycle materials that provided interesting insights into future approaches concerning environmental stewardship.

A sophomore Biology student calculates the amount of carbon dioxide produced for the production of each of his recyclable items.
A sophomore Biology student calculates the amount of carbon dioxide produced for the production of each of his recyclable items and how much atmospheric carbon dioxide would be conserved these same items were recycled.
About the Author

Spencer Cody teaches at Edmund Central Middle and High School in the Edmunds Central School District in South Dakota teaching 7-12 science and can be contacted at Spencer.Cody@k12.sd.us.

Download: Runaway Carbon Cycle: Reducing Carbon Emissions through Understanding and Action

Leveraging Student Interest and Community Partnerships to Drive Learning in Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences and Stewardship Action Projects

Students completed community environmental inventories, identified strengths and weaknesses in their community, selected an issue in need of a solution, and then researched and planned a stewardship action project to address the issues identified. Questions students needed to answer were recorded and investigations planned that helped them design a solution to the problem they identified. We sought out community partnerships to provide learning experiences that helped answer those questions and deeper questions that also emerged. We sought out cross curricular and cross grade partnerships within our school and district to draw the attention and interest of a wider range of students. Students presented their work within the district by creating videos for the morning announcements, presenting at school board meetings, and hosting groups of 5th grade classrooms for a field trip. Additionally, students reached beyond our district by presenting their work at conferences, submitting grant proposals, and entering journalism competitions.

Students ready to embark on Schoolship to collect data that monitors the health of Lake Michigan in Suttons Bay.
Students ready to embark on Schoolship to collect data that monitors the health of Lake Michigan in Suttons Bay.
About the Author

Holly Hereau is a Science Educator at BSCS and an Adjunct Biology instructor at Macomb Community College in Warren, MI. She previously taught high school biology, chemistry and environmental science in Redford, Michigan for 15 years and was a member of the Achieve Inc. Peer Review Panel for Science. Hereau has worked with educators across the country to support implementation of high-quality NGSS designed units developed by the Next Generation Science Storylines and inquiry Hub teams in addition to working with those teams to develop Biology and Chemistry High School Storyline units. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Grand Valley State University and studied Entomology at Michigan State University before earning a master’s degree in secondary education at the University of Michigan. She was named the 2019 Michigan High School Teacher of the Year and a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 2019. Holly can be reached at hhereau@gmail.com found on Twitter @hhereau

Download: Leveraging Student Interest and Community Partnerships to Drive Learning in Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences and Stewardship Action Projects

Refuse Plastic- Save the Seas

Living on the beautiful coast of Maine provides our students with views of rocky beaches, sea birds and the beautiful ocean. Not many students get to see the fish, sea turtles and whales which live in the Gulf of Maine. Even fewer understand that their actions on land can have an impact on the animals in the Atlantic Ocean.

BRRRR (Belfast Refuse Reduce Reuse Recycle) is a group of dedicated third, fourth and fifth graders who volunteer their time to reduce waste in the school to protect the ocean. With a grant from the NOAA Planet Stewards Project, our group focused on reducing waste by raising awareness about, and access to, reusables in school and home lunches. Students gathered data about cafeteria waste, learned about the impacts of plastic on the ocean and positive choices students can make to reduce waste. Then they educated their school community and held a Zero Waste Lunch Campaign. Refuse Plastic- Save the Seas was designed to encourage a love of the ocean and an understanding of how simple choices can help our ocean friends. We can all be ocean heroes!

The entire school collected used markers for recycling- 82 pounds of markers were diverted from the incinerator.
The entire school collected used markers for recycling- 82 pounds of markers were diverted from the incinerator.
About the Author

Tish Manning has been teaching for 25 years at the elementary and middle school level. She has taught in Puerto Rico and Hawaii, but mostly in Maine. She led a group of middle and high school students, parents and teachers to the Amazon rainforest to study rainforest ecology in the late 90’s. She has dedicated the last 5 years to helping students learn how to protect the ocean. Her work earned the New England Aquarium’s School Group award for Ocean Stewardship in 2019. She has received 2 NOAA Planet Stewards Grants. She can be reached at tgmanning31@gmail.com.

Download: Refuse Plastic- Save the Seas

A Deep Sense of Hope: Engaging Students in Coral Restoration

This article describes a NOAA Planet Stewards Education Project where students dive deeply into environmental science and stewardship. The Colorado Coralition focuses on the science of climate change, coral decline, and reef restoration. Middle and high school students from Fort Collins, Colorado worked for an entire year to take part in the learning experience of a lifetime: helping the Coral Restoration Foundation in their efforts to stem the tide of coral reef decline in the Florida Keys. For the culmination of their 2019 project, Coralition students used their scuba diving skills to contribute to ongoing coral restoration research in an in-depth citizen science project at the bottom of the ocean.

Jaya, a 7th grader, collects data on the health of outplanted staghorn corals as part of the Coralition citizen science project.
Jaya, a 7th grader, collects data on the health of outplanted staghorn corals as part of the Coralition citizen science project.
About the Author

Dr. Matt Strand teaches 7th and 8th grade English and serves as the middle school team leader at Polaris Expeditionary Learning School in Fort Collins, Colorado. He has also served as a national coach for EL Education’s Better World Project. He earned his M.Ed. in 2001 in Educational Research and Collaboration from Texas Christian University with an emphasis on experiential models of school reform. He went on to earn his Ph.D. in 2013 in Education and Human Resource Studies from Colorado State University with a focus on authentic professional learning. He has used experiential, project-based, and student-centered assessment models to engage learners for over twenty years. He can be reached at mstrand@psdschools.org.

Download: A Deep Sense of Hope: Engaging Students in Coral Restoration

Measuring Carbon Sequestration Through Gardening

Carbon sequestration by plants is one of the most important short term processes that removes the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As humans continue to remove carbon from long term geologic sinks, through the burning of fossil fuels for example, understanding how carbon can be removed from the atmosphere by plants through photosynthesis is an important concept for students to understand. One way to attempt to measure this process is by measuring dry and ash weights of a plant to estimate the amount of carbon sequestered by the plant during its lifetime. This laboratory activity can be paired with the creation of a community garden that allows students to measure how much carbon can be sequestered through the creation of an individual green space and can connect individual action on climate change.

Picture showing the author showing students how to combust plant samples.
Picture showing the author showing students how to combust plant samples.
About the Author

Shannon began teaching as an outdoor school and science camp instructor at the age of 16 and has worked in the states of Oregon, Washington, California, New York and Wisconsin. Shannon has been teaching geology and Earth sciences for ten years at several Community Colleges but has committed to a single location, Chemeketa Community College at the Yamhill Valley Campus in McMinnville, Oregon. Prior to teaching, Shannon worked as a natural resource scientist for the Washington Department of Natural Resources in the Forestry department mapping landslides and making landslide hazard maps.

Download: Measuring Carbon Sequestration Through Gardening

The Great Water Design Challenge: A NOAA Planet Stewards and Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) Collaboration

Through generous NOAA Planet Stewards funding, schools in the Northern Illinois area had the unique opportunity to participate in a one-day design challenge that focused on local and state environmental issues. Student teams, which ranged from fifth grade through high school, engaged in research and design thinking to create innovative responses and solutions to address their selected water challenge. Subject matter experts were available, both virtually and in person, for questions, conversations, and insights as teams worked. Simultaneously team sponsors engaged in their own professional develop- ment related to the NOAA Planet Stewards Program. Students showcased their work at the end of the day to experts and educator mentors.

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The Great Lakes in satellite view
SeaWiFS satellite captured this view of the Great Lakes, including the turbid waters of Lake Erie, in this recent overpass. (Provided by the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE)
About the Author

Liz Martinez is grateful to be a NOAA Climate Steward and appreciative of the support provided. She currently is a curriculum and professional development specialist for The Center for Teaching and Learning at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, IL. Prior to this she was a middle school science teacher for 29 years. Liz is a past president of the National Middle Level Science Teachers Association.

Download: The Great Water Design Challenge: A NOAA Planet Stewards and Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) Collaboration

Examining Experiential Learning Impacts on Student Understanding and Skill Building through the Watershed Flood Modeling Project

Students embarked on an adventure by engaging through Kolb’s experiential learning theory, where they were given the opportunity to build their skills, understand the connections between the classroom and community, and acquire knowledge. Middle school students developed real world solutions by researching flash floods, then they constructed 3D models using TinkerCAD (2021) and a geospatial model using ArcGIS 10.0 (ESRI, 2014). Statistically significant results suggested that there was evidence of an increase in learning and skill building. Additionally, results conveyed that students increased their willingness to problem solve through complex issues and improved their skill level by using 3D modeling and geospatial technology. Further, a student leadership team was formed to present innovative prototypes to the National Weather Service, so as to offer solutions that help warn the public of flash floods.

The ArcGIS 10.0 (ESRI, 2014) flash flood model
The ArcGIS 10.0 (ESRI, 2014) flash flood model above demonstrated 3ft, 5ft, 10ft, 15ft, 20ft, 30ft and above simulation to help The National Weather Service understand flash flood vulnerable areas based on terrain.
About the Author

Mrs. Beth Szijarto is a doctoral student at Kent State University through Geography/Social & Behavioral Sciences. Her research involves studying competitive environments through rural and suburban schools by implementing prevention programming and utilizing experiential learning methods. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Management Information Systems and a Master’s Degree in GIS/Remote Sensing. Since 2015, she has been a STEM Director for private, rural and suburban private schools, and has introduced geospatial technology to students and educators within Northeast Ohio. She has worked in corporate for 15 years through QA automation software testing and she has been an entrepreneur, launching educational businesses which promote STEM. She has used geospatial technology and computer programming while working for the federal government for 10 years. By getting the chance to engage with students through problem based learning within STEM education, she often feels like a kid again. As a young kid, she enjoyed adventure and reading National Geographic, Discovery, and Choose Your Own Adventure books. Over the years, she also participated in 4-H, Girl Scouts, Science Fairs, and Odyssey of the Mind competitions. She can be reached at szijabe@yahoo.com.

Download: Examining Experiential Learning Impacts on Student Understanding and Skill Building through the Watershed Flood Modeling Project

Earth Day at Cottage Lane

Richard Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” in his book “Last Child Left in the Woods,” in 2005, which he thinks of as “… not a formal diagnosis, but a way to describe the psychological, physical and cognitive costs of human alienation from nature, particularly for children in their vulnerable developing years.”.1, 2 In the years that followed the publication of Louv’s work, schools began to think more deeply about how to give children authentic outdoor learning experiences. In 2010, our 3rd through 5th grade elementary school, Cottage Lane Elementary in Blauvelt, New York, began an outdoor education event where we take our entire school to a local state park for a day. Once there, each class rotates from learning center to learning center where they work with scientists, outdoor educators, local environmental groups and other volunteers to learn more about and experience the environment around them. What follows is a brief summary of what we have learned in the 10 years that we have been doing this work. We hope that it may serve as a model which other schools could replicate in their own way. On the electronic version of this article, we are including directions for center activities that can be replicated if you want to try your hand at implementing a day of your own.

Students on Earth Day at Cottage Lane
Students on Earth Day at Cottage Lane
About the Author

Jacob Tanenbaum teaches science and computer technology in the South Orangetown schools located in Rockland County New York, just north of New York City. Mr. Tanenbaum has been an educator for over 30 years. In addition to schools in the New York area, Mr. Tanenbaum has taught in Tucson, Arizona; Buffalo, New York; Alabama; Georgia, Guatemala City; Guayaquil, Ecuador and Bogotá, Colombia. More information, as well as a list of his awards, grants, talks and publications appears on his website, www.jacobtanenbaum.com

Earth Day at Cottage Lane