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July 31, 2002

John Bluck                                                                                         

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Phone:  650/604-5026 or 604-9000



From checking soil by touch to using weather apparatus and making other observations, 25 educators from kindergarten through college level will converge at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley to learn how to conduct hands-on environmental workshops.


The training, to take place Aug. 5 through Aug. 9, is part of the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program. The educators will take part in classroom activities and fieldwork that will prepare them to teach others how to involve their schools and students in the GLOBE program. GLOBE’s goals include teaching students to observe and analyze their surroundings and thereby learn science, math and technology. GLOBE also is assembling a worldwide database of observations that can enable scientists to understand as well as predict global environmental changes.

“GLOBE links students and scientists worldwide in a collaborative effort,” said Pat Helton, manager of the GLOBE national help desk at NASA Ames. “They learn that the soil, the air, the water and land cover are all linked together to result in the Earth as one system,” Helton said. The educator trainees will come from California, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada and Texas.

“When students turn in data, they are contributing to the body of knowledge about the Earth,” said Bonnie Samuelson, coordinator for the NASA Ames-GLOBE partnership. “They actually become ‘student scientists’ participating in a larger research project that spans the globe and involves 98 countries including the United States.”

“GLOBE is an ideal program for involving students in science,” said Helton. “We support the teachers, and the teachers work with their students.”

“The program also provides unique teaching tools for educators, one of NASA’s education priorities,” said Donald James, NASA Ames education director. “GLOBE combines math, science, geography and technology into one package,” Samuelson added.

“Educators will get their hands dirty during soil characterization studies,” said Helton. “Some of what they will do includes looking at the soil and feeling it with their hands to determine ‘soil consistence’ – whether it is loose, crumbles easily or is firm.”

They also look at soil color and how much sand, silt and clay there is. This and other data- gathering are much of what GLOBE students do across the world. Students make scientific observations and collect data about the atmosphere, hydrology, soils and land cover. Land cover includes the type and amount of vegetation in an area and could include trees, grasses, water, blacktop, dust, sand and other land components.

Some of the data that GLOBE students collect daily include the amount of cloud cover, types and percentage of clouds; high, low and current temperatures; and precipitation amounts. The young observers also gather information about ozone and haze in the air; take water body temperatures; and measure pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, nitrate concentration and turbidity of water. “Students learn these and other scientific terms and concepts through their experience with the program, and they also learn the scientific method of observation and research,” Helton said.

“When we train the trainers, they will learn to link all these systems together,” said Helton. “Students learn that their science lab is right outside the door.”

“The GLOBE program aligns with the NASA mission to understand and protect the home planet and to inspire the next generation of explorers,” Samuelson added. There are several National Science Foundation (NSF) principal investigators who support GLOBE, developed the GLOBE procedures (protocol) and use the gathered data in their research. Student observations provide ‘ground truthing’ for scientists who are interpreting satellite images of various regions of the world.

Ground truthing involves making very accurate observations on the ground or near the surface of the Earth that scientists use to calibrate satellite images. Once researchers learn what specific light wavelengths and other data in the satellite images and measurements represent on the ground, scientists have a ‘spectral fingerprint’ they can use to make accurate regional or worldwide observations by satellite. Participating schools also receive satellite images of their areas that students use to learn to analyze for spectral data, just as scientists do.

“We help educators get started and involved in GLOBE. We help them implement it in their schools, solve computer and data entry problems, and we answer scientific and procedural questions of all kinds,” Helton said.

NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise and NSF fund GLOBE. The ‘Train the Trainers’ workshop also is supported by Hartnell College, Salinas, Calif.; and the Shoreline at Mountain View park. The GLOBE program began on Earth Day in April 1995. The GLOBE data are available to anyone via the World Wide Web at

For more information about GLOBE, please contact Samuelson by e-mail or by telephone at:  or 650-604-6355.

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