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Snow Day
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.

A girl lies in a pile of fresh show

Urban areas tend to get less snow than nearby rural areas. Image Credit: Microsoft Clipart

What do you like most about snow days? Sleeping late? Drinking hot chocolate? Playing in the snow?

And then, there are also those two words, "No school"!

It's fun to wake up and see snow outside your window. But did you know that some kids get more snow days than others?

Big cities often get less snow than nearby small towns. Steve Frantz sees this happen a lot. He teaches science at a middle school in the city of Akron, Ohio. But he lives in a smaller town outside Akron.

"There have been days when I have not been able to go to school because my county has been shut down, [except for] emergency vehicles. But all is well in the city," Mr. Frantz said. "For many of my students, really bad winter weather is only something they see on TV. Even though it may only be a few miles away."

Mr. Frantz talked about this in school one day. What he said gave four of his students an idea for a science project. Ashley, Katelyn, Julia and Elizabeth wondered about what might cause less snow to fall in the city. They wanted to know if it had something to do with the land. Bigger cities tend to have more streets, sidewalks and buildings. Smaller towns tend to have more grass and trees.

The girls started their project by going outside their school. They measured the temperature of the grass for five days in a row. They did this at the same time each day. They asked people at other places to do the same thing. They picked places that had different types of land. Some had more grass and trees. Others had more streets, sidewalks and buildings.

Four girls stand with their teacher and hold their award certificates

From left to right: Ashley, Katelyn, Elizabeth and Julia receive awards for their science project. Standing behind them is their teacher, Steve Frantz. Image Credit: Steve Frantz

Next, they graphed the temperatures. The girls looked at the graphs closely. Was there a pattern to the temperatures? Were they warmer in city areas than in places with more grass and trees? It seemed they might be. But it was hard to tell for sure.

The students found out that science doesn't always give an exact answer. Sometimes you finish a project with more questions than you started with.

"We had one question at first, but now we have many different questions," Julia said. "We learned that science is really never-ending," Elizabeth added.

Ashley, Katelyn, Julia and Elizabeth were proud of their work. They wrote a paper telling what they did. The girls entered the paper into a contest. They were one of five teams to win the contest. Their prize is a trip to South Africa!

The trip is planned for June 2008. The Ohio students will meet other students from all over the world. They'll all share their projects with each other. They'll also learn from each other about what life is like in different countries.

Julia is excited to go to South Africa. She's happy she was able to take part in the science project. "It showed me how science can be fun," she said.

Related Resources
How Do You Measure the Weather?   →
Meet Previous Earth Explorers

Dan Stillman, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies