Standing in front of their poster, dressed in their school's white and blue uniforms, two 17- and 18-year-old students from Thailand told a visitor that they served as human bait to trap Aedes mosquitoes for their research project. Further down the hall, three fifth-graders from Norwalk, Ohio, explained to a judge how the salt their town spread on the streets after a heavy snowfall mixed with meltwater and affected scientific readings of local creek water. With the help of a translator, two female Saudi high schoolers, clad in black from head to toe, described their research on the factors affecting the solubility of oxygen in spring water near their school.
These are some of the more than 70 students and 200 educators from around the world who are participating in the 17th Annual Partner Meeting of the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment, known as the GLOBE program. The event is being held Aug. 12-16 at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the nearby University of Maryland's Inn and Conference Center."
GLOBE is a science and education program for primary and secondary schools around the world that brings the scientific method to the classroom. Students, guided by their teachers and sometimes by research scientists, use instruments and protocols defined by GLOBE to make local measurements of weather, water quality, soil and other aspects of Earth science. They then upload their data into a global database for anyone to use. Some of the data is used as ground validation for NASA satellite missions.
This year's meeting participants come from 26 countries and 27 U.S. states. The largest international delegation is from Thailand, with 29 students and educators, followed by Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, with 20 participants each.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden inaugurated the weeklong GLOBE activities on the morning of Aug.12.
"One of the biggest accomplishments of GLOBE is to make available access to science and scientific thinking to students around the world," Bolden said. "It brings kids together to help them be a part of the Earth science research community: They go out and get the data in their home country or their home state and then they enter the data into the GLOBE website." Bolden met with the students after his speech to answer their questions on NASA's projects. Bolden said that GLOBE also "has the added effect of bringing people of different backgrounds and cultures together."
At the meeting, students and educators showcase their research through oral presentations and posters, participate in field training sessions ranging from investigating the impacts of urban development to the study of fresh water macroinvertebrates, tour the Goddard campus and more.
Beyond the planned activities, the meeting lets students and teachers interact with other GLOBE participants from around the world, share their experiences using GLOBE experiments in the classroom and possibly come up with future collaborative projects.
"There's no other organization that I know of that that brings people together from all sorts of different nations, and science becomes the common language," said Diana Johns, a biology and advanced placement environmental science teacher at Crestwood High School in Wayne County, Mich. "My students today are interacting with students from Thailand. They are interacting with students from Nigeria. Where would they have a chance to do that? And so science becomes a chance to understand our planet and also to understand cultures and the diversity that's on our planet."
"GLOBE is just great," said Audra Edwards, a science teacher at Hawkins, a rural high school in east Texas. "It's so much better than just doing things out of a textbook. It's a real practical application; kids can see that their data is being looked up by scientists and students all around the world." Edwards is accompanying a group of students who are presenting the results of a collaborative soil research project with high schoolers from India. The joint initiative stemmed from an invitation the Texan students received to attend the GLOBE India Science Festival in New Delhi in November 2012.
Papavadee Vallikul and Jamrell Buynay are two Thai students who spent the summer studying how differences in soil, temperatures and climate due to the degradation of mangrove forests affect the population of a tiny crab. They said their GLOBE experience has given them a new perspective on the environment.
"In the mangrove forests, the crabs are very small but they oxygenate the soil, they mix it up," said Vallikul and Buynay, finishing each other’s sentences. "If the crabs aren't there, it affects the soil, the whole forest. Doing the science has shown us that it's all connected."
The GLOBE program is sponsored by NASA and the National Science Foundation, and supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United States Department of State.
To learn more about GLOBE, visit: http://www.globe.gov