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When Bad Things Happen to Good Students
12.09.04
 

Who Are NASA's Earth Explorers?

The elementary school student wondering how El Niño will affect tomorrow's weather. The scientist studying connections between ozone and climate change. And the farmer using satellite pictures to keep track of crops. All of these people are Earth Explorers -- they are all curious about the Earth system. This series will introduce you to NASA Earth Explorers, young and old, with many backgrounds and interests.


Students studying their GLOBE cloud charts
Spring was finally in the air and flowers were blooming. All winter long, a group of fifth-graders at Kittrell Elementary School in Iowa had been closely watching the weather. They were trying to study how temperature and clouds affect bursting tree buds.

Image to right: Kittrell students study their GLOBE cloud charts. Credit: NASA

But excitement quickly turned to dismay one morning in April. The students arrived at school to find their outdoor weather box had been bashed. And their new digital thermometer was gone. This wasn't exactly their idea of a friendly April Fools' prank.

Sad and angry, three of the students got together and took action. They wrote a letter to the local newspaper saying:

"We can't believe someone would be so mean to break the box and steal something that they probably don't even know how to use or want. ... We are trying to raise money to purchase another thermometer so our project can continue. If you want to help us get another thermometer we would be very thankful."

The letter was published. And the response was greater than the students had thought possible.

Kittrell soon received enough money to buy a new thermometer. The school was also given two new weather boxes by a man who builds them. The biggest surprise of all was a visit from Mark Schnackenberg, a local TV weather forecaster. He presented the school with a $200 check.

"We didn't want to have them stop what they were doing because the money was not there to buy new instruments," Schnackenberg said. "Textbook activities and materials are a great way to begin to learn about science. But to actually use real-time data... I think using real-time data is more important."

Students at Kittrell track the weather and study the environment through a program called GLOBE. In fact, K-12 students all over the world participate in GLOBE. They collect data on the land, air, water, plants and animals. Then they report their observations to the GLOBE Web site. Scientists and other students can access the data for use in their research.

Kittrell also takes part in GLOBE ONE, a special project for schools in Iowa's Black Hawk County. GLOBE ONE partners students with scientists. Together they study problems having to do with the local environment.

Carol Boyce
Teacher Carol Boyce runs the GLOBE program at Kittrell. Her students use the data they collect to study temperature and weather. Last year they studied the plants and animals around their school. They noted changes in bird and insect populations and how these changes related to temperature.

Image to left: Carol Boyce is in charge of the GLOBE program at Kittrell. Credit: NASA

But the students don't just do science. They also learn how to be a scientist.

"I want them to learn to ask questions. Look for connections. Develop theories about why things happen. And to be a learner through observation and participation," Boyce said.

This year, the students at Kittrell learned as much about life -- the good and the bad -- as they did about being a scientist. Shelby, 11 years old, felt like most of her classmates. She was sad that anyone would purposely damage and steal their weather equipment. But she was glad to see something good -- the community's response -- come from such an awful event.

"I think something good happened because I learned that there are many people that will help others," Shelby said.

See previous Earth Explorers articles:
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Related Resources

GLOBE
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GLOBE ONE
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Adapted Letter to Newspaper:

Thieves Break Youths' Hearts
We are fifth-grade students. We have a teacher, Mrs. Carol Boyce, who coordinates a science program at our school called GLOBE. GLOBE is a nationwide program used in the schools and community that charts scientific measurements such as temperature along with many other readings that are recorded for scientific data and research.

Our school has an outdoor weather box that is made of wood, and it contains an expensive thermometer that records temperatures throughout the day. We have different students who record the temperatures daily, and we track this information for further use.

Someone recently broke into the box, broke the box and stole the thermometer. This has happened before, but we did not lose such an expensive thermometer. Our teacher does not have any money to replace the thermometer, and we are very sad because this project provided a lot of data for future scientific use besides being a very important part of our program. We are trying to raise money to purchase another thermometer so our project can continue. If you want to help us get another thermometer we would be very thankful.

We can't believe someone would be so mean to break the box and steal something that they probably don't even know how to use or want.

If anyone has any information on who may have done this or know where the thermometer is, please contact any of us.


 
 
Dan Stillman, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies