Educators who completed projects supported by NOAA Planet Stewards share their stories, innovations, and resources you may find useful in your own education setting in The Earth Scientist — a peer reviewed science education journal of The National Earth Science Teachers Association. The 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. Find out how you can receive support from NOAA Planet Stewards to carry out a stewardship project.
Prairies are defined by unique soil characteristics, grasses, and wildflowers. They provide native habitat for birds, butterflies, insects, reptiles, and other small wild- life. This middle school project, supported by funding from NOAA Planet Stewards, created a native prairie landscape on a school-site yard where there was once only a 2.75-acre lawn. Students worked with community members to research planting and maintenance of prairie plants. After installation, students were able to track an increase in biodiversity of plants and animals over a four-year span. They also compared the biomass of lawn and prairie and calculated the savings of carbon emissions due to a reduction of mowing.
Stephanie Baldwin is a sixth grade language arts and science teacher at Little Miami Middle School in Ohio. She holds a BA degree from DePauw University in Biology and an MS degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Cincinnati. She has taught for 18 years in the middle school sciences and received the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation Teacher of the Year award in 2018. Stephanie can be reached at email@example.com.
Students in a rural Illinois high school Earth and Space science class were challenged to consider how to better manage our land in central Illinois to positively impact water quality. The students learned about watersheds, their local Little Wabash River and how our land use choices affect all of the bodies of water it empties into. They mapped the watershed, determined its threats, and gained an understanding of the effects of different land uses on the Little Wabash and all the watersheds downstream to the Gulf of Mexico. Students collected and analyzed water quality samples. They also used online tools to determine how changing a specific land use practice could impact runoff, siltation, and nutrient pollution. Students proposed and implemented a tree planting project to reduce runoff from part of an agricultural field of a local landowner. Students prepared detailed reports and showed improvement from pretest to post-test about their knowledge of watersheds. Results from this project will be used with future classes as the tree planting matures
Amy Brown is a high school biology and earth science teacher at Neoga Jr/Sr High School, in Neoga, IL. She has taught junior high and high school there since 2004. Amy earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology (Wildlife Biology) from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and worked for the Illinois EPA for a few years in the early 1990’s. She then spent a few years as an independent contractor contacting riparian landowners along the Embarrass, Salt Fork and Spoon Rivers in Illinois to promote healthy riparian management. Amy received her teacher certification through Eastern Illinois University, and later completed a Master of Science program at the same institution. For the past few years, Amy has also been part of a team working on writing NGSS storyline units with Dr. Barabara Hug of the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign College of Education. Amy is very interested in ecology and conservation, and has always strived to bring real world issues into her classroom. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reforestation efforts are often cited as one of the 15 most important and effective strategies that can be implemented to reduce atmospheric CO2 (Hawken, 2017). The project detailed here, is a small-scale, proof-of-concept initiative for a much larger and future reforestation campaign in Northern Arizona. This project allowed for broad student involvement in what will ultimately be a multi-year effort for sequestering CO2. In addition, this project serves as a first step in a potential larger Carbon Offset initiative that would be sponsored and championed by all three of the State Universities of Arizona (ASU, UofA, and NAU). As part of this NOAA Climate Stewards funded project, two-dozen graduate students from the NAU Climate Science and Solutions (CSS) graduate program successfully completed a small-scale (2-acre) Ponderosa Pine reforestation initiative in the Fall of 2020. These students planted ~200 Ponderosa Pine saplings on previously burned National Forest land. Future graduate students will subsequently monitor survival rates and carbon sequestration. It is hoped that the long-term project will ultimately result in over 1 million total newly planted trees (approximately 10,000 acres) in the next five years.
John Fegyveresi, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Practice in the School of Earth and Sustainability at Northern Arizona University where he teaches content related to the impacts of climate change. Additionally, John is a research glaciologist and climate scientist specializing in the analysis and interpretation of ice cores and polar ice sheets. He is most drawn to research questions that address how the physical and chemical properties of ice can be used to model past climates in polar regions and quantify ice-sheet deformation and strain history. Prior to this appointment, Dr. Fegyveresi spent four years as a Research Physical Scientist at the US Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab in Hanover, NH. He has also spent nine field seasons carrying out research in Antarctica. John can be reached at email@example.com.
Anthropogenic Climate Change is the challenge of our time. Unfortunately, most educational experiences leave students in a state of despair, missing the opportunity to capitalize on action. In order to affect positive change for our collective future, students must not only understand the mechanisms of climate change, but be empowered to create positive change now within their sphere of influence (Hayhoe 2021). In this project, sponsored by NOAA Planet Stewards, high school students learned about plant growth, biodiversity, and ecosystems before investigating how their consumer choices and actions can impact individual carbon emissions. Finally, students worked to solve this challenge through the creation of a school community garden.
John Herrington is a 24 year veteran teacher with East Syracuse Minoa Central High School located in Central New York. John has received the NNSTOY New York STEM Fellowship, the Technological Alliance of Central New York award for innovative teaching, is a NOAA Planet Steward, and has been appointed as an adjunct instructor for State University of New York Environmental Science and Forestry. John holds a BS in Environmental and Fisheries Biology from SUNY ESF and an MS in Education from LeMoyne College. As an environmental enthusiast, John co-advises the Outdoor Adventure Club, coaches cross country, and baseball. John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pamela Herrington contributed to this project and article. She is a former NOAA Planet Steward and is the STEM and science instructional specialist for East Syracuse Minoa Central School District.
In partnership with the Climate Science Alliance, the San Diego Coastkeeper education team developed new climate change lessons and activities to demonstrate the connection between human activities and greenhouse gases and climate change impacts in our oceans. Thanks to the generous support from NOAA Planet Stewards, the project was able to bring a Water and Climate Stewards program to approximately 944 4th-12th grade students at eight schools within San Diego County. Through one-on-one meetings with teachers and students, classroom presentations, online lesson plans, free supplies and action projects, students gained a better understanding of San Diego’s ecology and the threats that our environment and community face from pollution and climate change. Students developed a sense of stewardship towards San Diego’s habitats and wildlife and learned specific actions they can take to protect our natural resources, reduce their single-use plastic consumption, and create positive change in their communities. Teachers gained free access to standards-aligned lesson plans that meet Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards, enhancing their curriculum with environmental science education.
Sandra Lebrón, MS in Marine Science, University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, is the former San Diego Coastkeeper Education Manager. She is the current Director of Education at the Elementary Institute of Science where she serves the Southeast San Diego schools to provide STEM opportunities for underrepresented students in STEM. Sandra has been working in science education for 20 years with organizations like the National Estuarine Research Reserve, NOAA’s Sea Grant College Program, Birch Aquarium at Scripps, and the Living Coast Discovery Center. She is passionate about environmental education and STEM equity. She enjoys spending time with her 15-year-old son, friends, and family, and enjoys the beach as much as possible! Sandra can be reached at email@example.com
The Planet Stewards Program is invaluable for connecting teachers and informal educators who are passionate about instilling the value of environmental stewardship in students. A team from the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island Tribal Government developed a curriculum for middle school students at the St. Paul Island School in Alaska about marine debris issues that helped them find small-scale solutions within their community. We created original lesson plans that utilized materials from marine debris experts around the world, and coordinated with them to provide virtually visits to students from the school to talk about their work. Piloting this curriculum required high levels of communication and collaboration with teachers at the St. Paul Island School and the Covid-19 pandemic provided challenges. As a result, our first attempt to deliver the curriculum was done in a hybrid format in which the teacher was in the classroom with the students on St. Paul Island, and presenters visited the classroom virtually via video conference to talk to students and lead classroom activities. We learned many valuable lessons about working with teachers and students in a small rural Alaskan community, and hope to pass along those lessons for teachers and informal STEM educators in other parts of the country.
Veronica Padula is the Assistant Director of the Ecosystem Conservation Office, the research and resource management branch of the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island Tribal Government. Her graduate research focused on the impacts of marine debris in the Bering Sea Ecosystem. She worked with an amazing team of educators to develop the marine debris curriculum discussed here: Haley Edmondson, Herminia Din, Quin Fitzpatrick and Katy Nalvin. Veronica can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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