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Students and Scientists Link Up to Study Climate and Weather


Two classrooms full of inquisitive sixth graders were able to meet for the first time recently with the help of NASA -- an unlikely meeting as the two classes are more than 3,840 miles (approximately 7,100 km) apart.

American students from the School of International Studies at Meadowbrooke in Norfolk, Va., and French students from the College Cantelande near Bordeaux, France, met "face-to-face," at least virtually, in February as part of a program to teach the students about clouds, aerosols, weather and climate through the CloudSat and CALIPSO satellite missions.

NASA CONNECT hosted the videoconference, bringing the students in touch with scientists from the two NASA missions. Joining the meeting from Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. were CALIPSO scientists: David Winker, the principal investigator; Ali Omar, science team member; and Mark Vaughan of the Lidar Science Working Group. From Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, Co., were CloudSat scientists: Graeme Stephens, principal investigator, and Debra Krumm, outreach director and GLOBE Program scientist. Dianne Robinson, outreach director for CALIPSO, and Teresa Kennedy, director of International/U.S. Partnerships for GLOBE, joined the meeting from France with the College Cantelande students.

A video-conference introduced students from France and the U.S. to scientists from the CALIPSO and CloudSat missions, helping the students to learn more about weather, climate and air quality. Image Left:Ellen Holmes with NASA CONNECT (show in the top left quarter of the screen with the CALIPSO mission scientists) moderated the event, introducing the students and the scientists, giving the students a chance to share information about their lives and their schools using electronic presentations with graphics and images. With the help of translators, the students shared facts such as the length of their school day and the classroom subjects that they study on a typical day. Standing in the right foreground are Jackie Colander, the principal of Meadowbrooke School, and Paul Jones, the students' teacher.

"The videoconference was a wonderful experience because it allowed the students to collaborate internationally on a problem question-- to better understand clouds and aerosols and the roles they play in climate change," said Barb Maggi, assistant outreach director for CALIPSO.

Wiggling in their seats, sharing contagious giggles, the students in Norfolk, Va. were obviously excited by the opportunity to speak with students in France and the mission scientists. When the video feed went live, it was clear that the feeling was mutual-- the French students were just as excited.

During the videoconference, the NASA scientists described their missions, defining some of the science objectives that they hope to accomplish by studying clouds and aerosols from space. The scientists then presented the students with challenge questions to analyze. The two groups of students shared their answers to the challenge questions with each other and with the scientists.

An image of the American students and their teacher working on challenge questions during the video-conference. Image Right:Shown here are the American students and their teacher working on challenge questions during the video-conference.

"The students were able to learn first-hand that scientists do not know all of the answers about climate change and Earth's atmosphere," said Debra Krumm. "These two missions are so exciting because there is so much left to discover!"

Engaging students in the study of science is sometimes difficult; however, using innovative techniques, such as videoconferencing, can help teachers to teach students about both science and different cultures [and languages]. "Because CALIPSO is a joint U.S. and French satellite mission, this 'live event' models the real world international collaboration of the mission scientists," said Dianne Robinson.

NASA will launch the CALIPSO (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation) and CloudSat spacecraft in summer 2005 to study the roles that clouds and aerosols play in regulating Earth's weather, climate and air quality. CloudSat and CALIPSO will collect information about the vertical structure of clouds and aerosols unavailable from other Earth observing satellites.

This videoconference follows a national CALIPSO, CloudSat, Aura, and GLOBE (CCAG) teacher workshop hosted at Colorado State University in Fort Collins during the summer of 2004. Another CCAG teacher workshop will be hosted at Hampton University in Hampton, Va., during the summer of 2006.

Related Links

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CloudSat Outreach
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Katie Lorentz
NASA Langley Research Center

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