This University of Alaska Fairbanks award for the Monitoring Seasons Through Global Learning Communities (MSTGLC) project is a collaboration between the International Arctic Research Center (IARC) and the NASA Landsat Data Continuity (LDCM) and Terra Satellite Missions. Through interactions with scientists working on these research projects and inquiry- and project-based investigations of their own, elementary and secondary students are using existing and new GLOBE protocols to monitor seasonal environmental changes that occur and increase their understanding of the Earth system. Participating schools are being organized by biomes into eight regionally based Global Learning Communities (GLCs): Tundra, Taiga, Deciduous Forest, Grasslands, Rainforest, Desert, Shrub Land, and Savannah. Students monitor their own biomes' seasons through regional based field campaigns, gaining new insights into the connections between climate variations and vegetation phenology. Comparison of regional observations through an international phenology network established with this award reinforces student understanding of the causal relationships between abiotic and biotic components of the Earth system. Existing GLOBE environmental monitoring protocols, including soil temperature, soil moisture, precipitation and phenology, are being adapted to be more biome specific. New freshwater ice and mosquito protocols for the Arctic and Tropical regions, respectively, will also be created during this award. The project is initially focused on the Tundra and Taiga biomes because phonological changes are more pronounced in these regions. In each subsequent year, two additional GLCs will be targeted, with organized field campaigns in these regions. During field campaigns, students make daily measurements of cloud cover, air and soil temperature, precipitation, and soil moisture, using standardized GLOBE procedures. In addition, seasonal, biome-specific vegetation phenology measurements will be taken using adapted GLOBE protocols and in situ ice (Tundra and Taiga) or mosquito (Rainforest) observations will be collected. Throughout the year, students and teachers interact with project staff and partner scientists through web chats, audio conferences, and face-to-face training. One international professional development workshop for teachers will be offered during each year of the project, at a location that corresponds to that year's targeted GLC. During the workshops, standard-based content key concepts and skills in Earth system science and technology will be taught. An annual Earth systems symposium will allow students to share the results of their investigations with other students and scientists. As part of this project, students in Polar Regions will participate in the International Polar Year (IPY) through student-led field campaigns and web chats with IPY scientists. In situ ice, mosquito, and vegetation measurements by students will provide more extensive ground validation for remotely sensed data collected by the satellite missions.

Project Report

Monitoring Seasons Through Global Learning Communities also called Seasons and Biomes is an international inquiry-based project. It is a Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) earth system science project. Seasons and Biomes has engaged K-12 teachers and their students in earth and environmental science studies in collaboration with scientists and community experts including Alaska Native elders. The project has developed ice seasonality (freeze-up and break-up of lakes and rivers), frost tube (depth of soil freezing), and mosquito larvae abundance protocols that can be used in studying environmental and climate change. Learning activities were also developed to help students understand science concepts and process. Students have been monitoring indicators of change in timing and duration of seasonal events in biomes (a major ecological community type such as tropical rain forest, tundra, grassland, or desert). They have used GLOBE standardized scientific measurements for investigations on atmosphere, soils, hydrology, land cover and phenology as well as those developed in this project. Seasons and Biomes has given thousands of students the opportunity to learn science by doing science, increase their understanding of the Earth system, participate in the fourth International Polar Year, and contribute to climate studies.. Over 22,000 students --individuals, small groups of students, classes and schools, have participated in locally relevant studies with regional to global reach. Global learning communities of educators, students and science experts have formed through different ways. One is through teacher professional development (PD) workshops conducted by Seasons and Biomes staff in the U.S. and other countries. The Seasons and Biomes PD workshop model engages the teachers in the science process while they learn new content knowledge, research techniques, best teaching practices and a systems approach in studying the Earth and the environment. A multiplier effect has resulted from these PD workshops. Project trained trainers (educators and scientists) as well as some teachers, have conducted their own workshops resulting in almost as many as the Seasons and Biomes staff have done. More than 1600 educators in 51 countries have participated. The other way of forming global learning communities is through collaborative projects such as: Pole-to-Pole videoconferences - students, teachers and, Arctic and Antarctic scientists discuss environment changes (Alaska, Colorado, Washington DC in the U.S. and Ushuaia, Argentina school) GS-Pals project- web-based discussions on climate (between Lima, Peru and Alaska, U.S. classrooms; Cameroon ad Switzerland classrooms,) facilitated by GLOBE Alumni Ice Mystery e-Polar books, collaboratively written and illustrated by students in an innovative science, language-arts project across continents, between 12 paired classrooms in Alaska, U.S. and Tasmania, Australia Mt Kilimanjaro expeditions in 2009-2012 were scientist driven, GLOBE Alumni guided and student focused treks up to the summit by scientists, teachers and students. They were accompanied virtually by thousands of students in 700 hundred schools all over the world. The trekkers collected ecosystem data using GLOBE measurements as they ascended through the different biomes on the mountain. Similarly, virtual participants did measurements at their schools and submitted descriptions and pictures of their biomes. They also sent questions to the climbers and participated in webinars during the climb and after. The 2012 expedition had the largest virtual participation through social media, webinars, emails and was featured by numerous media outlets. Mosquito studies in Thai schools have resulted in cleaning and covering water containers being used in households. Thailand local authorities have been trying to encourage this practice as part of measures to control mosquitoes that are vectors of diseases. Permafrost and Active Layer Monitoring program has engaged students and communities in rural Alaska in scientific research and is now engaging students in other countries. This project has contributed to the professional development of teachers and trainers as well as those of early career scientists who gained experience in sharing their expertise with teachers. Some teachers have used the university course credits for continuing education or towards an M.S. degree. Seasons and Biomes students are among the 1.5 million students who have contributed 23 million measurements to the GLOBE database ( Students have also conducted their own science investigations and presented at statewide, national and international conferences. These included Native students from Shageluk, Alaska, and students from two Secondary Model Deaf Schools. Formative and summative assessments indicate a positive impact on teacher science content knowledge, science process and pedagogy. Evaluation results, other evidence of student learning and numerous student investigations suggest increased student understanding of earth science and science process. Students are contributing to baseline data needed for long term studies such as climate change. Their critically needed science measurements may help validate satellite data, prevent and manage diseases, and understand water and carbon cycles. The project is preparing scientifically literate citizens, future scientists and decision makers. The impact on society beyond science and technology is international cooperation, goodwill and cultural enrichment.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Directorate for Geosciences (GEO)
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Jill L. Karsten
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University of Alaska Fairbanks Campus
United States
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