87th AMS Annual Meeting

Tuesday, 16 January 2007: 3:45 PM
Bridging the gap between Earth science and students: An integrated approach using NASA Earth science climate data
206B (Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center)
Erica J. Alston, NASA/LaRC, Hampton, VA; and L. H. Chambers, S. W. Moore, P. C. Oots, C. S. Phelps, and D. Diones
Poster PDF (521.2 kB)
Science education in the United States is governed at the highest levels by learning standards and metrics. At the local school level however, many issues potentially prevent students from achieving science proficiency. The federal government funds many programs to facilitate the instruction of science in K-12 classrooms. Under the auspices of the Department of Education's No Child Left Behind initiative, beginning in 2007 students will be tested in the science area. This stipulation creates another layer of complexity for teachers trying to do their jobs. The “Mentoring and inquiry using NASA Data on Atmospheric and Earth science for Teachers and Amateurs” (MY NASA DATA) project was established to systematically support educational activities at all levels of formal and informal education by reducing a portion of NASA's huge Earth science data holdings to “microsets” that are easily accessible and explored by K-12 educators.

The microsets are taken primarily from data housed at the Atmospheric Science Data Center (ASDC) at NASA Langley Research Center and from other sources. They cover a broad array of weather and climate topic areas such as: radiation budget, clouds, precipitation, aerosols, sea surface temperature and tropospheric chemistry. To increase the usability of the data, the microsets are part of an integrated website (http://mynasadata.larc.nasa.gov), which allows users to browse through data information pages, a science glossary, suggested computer tools and lesson plans for use with different microsets. A key component of MY NASA DATA is the Live Access Server (LAS) tool, that allows users to explore the data, create custom microsets and visualize the data. Through the LAS users can choose from a variety of parameters from many satellite missions, such as the Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES), the Multi-Angle SprectroRadiometer (MISR), and the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP), just to name a few. Additionally, users can download custom microsets in formats usable in spreadsheet programs (e.g., Microsoft Excel) and GIS software (i.e., ESRI's Arc View).

A major hurdle in using authentic data is the size of the data and data documentation. Many people outside of a specific discipline have difficulty understanding the jargon-heavy language of science. MY NASA DATA seeks to ease those difficulties by providing teacher- and student- friendly data documentation. The science glossary provides pictures and background information on most of the parameters and other key concepts on the MY NASA DATA website. Additionally, MY NASA DATA supports a FAQ page where users can ask questions and get responses from top scientists in their field, which addresses the partnering aspect of No Child Left Behind. To further strides in informal education, MY NASA DATA also has on its website a webpage devoted strictly to science project ideas. This page will serve as a guide to amateur scientists who want to explore various topics in atmospheric science. MY NASA DATA also supports many formal education initiatives by having complete lesson plans and teacher workshops. MY NASA DATA teacher workshops draw people nationwide to the NASA Langley Research Center for an intensely interactive, week-long experience. During the week, teachers meet scientists, familiarize themselves with the website, learn techniques for working with the data, and build personal networks with teachers who share the same interests. The lesson plans cover a broad variety of topics such as radiation, ozone, clouds, aerosols, and sea surface temperature. Lessons contained on the website are from MY NASA DATA team members and most importantly, from teachers who have used MY NASA DATA in their classrooms. Lesson plans on MY NASA DATA go through a formal review by NASA's Earth Science Education program to insure that all materials are of high quality and meet rigorous standards.

The No Child Left Behind initiative forces teachers to become creative in their approaches to science education, resulting in changing their pedagogies to incorporate new technologies, real data usage and real-world connections. The MY NASA DATA project serves as a conduit for teachers and students alike to interactively access, visualize, and use authentic NASA Earth science satellite data in classrooms. Teachers can customize their experience with MY NASA DATA by either using complete lesson plans, simulations, or by modifying the lesson plans for their particular classroom situation. Other teachers may simply want to look up a definition in the science glossary. The scalability of the MY NASA DATA project fills a void in data usage and accessibility while addressing the needs of the Earth science education community.

Supplementary URL: http://mynasadata.larc.nasa.gov