Project Name: Climate Science Research for Educators and Students (CSRES): Understanding Sun/Earth/Atmosphere Interactions
Project Status: CURRENT
Selection Year: 2010
Organization: Institute for Earth Science Research and Education (IESRE)
Project Description Project Investigator
Climate Science Research for Educators and Students: Understanding Sun/Earth/Atmosphere Interactions, is a three-year partnership among the Institute for Earth Science Research and Education, Queens College (CUNY), and NASA's Aerospace Education Services Project (AESP) that will significantly raise the profile of climate science among secondary school students. The project is motivated by the observation that successful climate-related projects are conspicuously absent from high-level national student science competitions (Intel, Siemens, etc.).

The fundamental reason for this situation is that the support infrastructures already in place for science areas prominent in national student competitions do not exist for climate science, and that this infrastructure must be built before NASA can achieve its goals of improving public understanding of climate and building a workforce that is prepared to conduct climate science during the 21st century. This infrastructure consists of four components: professional development, expert mentoring, accessible equipment, and well-documented research ideas and protocols.

CSRES takes as its science and education focus the Earth's radiative balance, a topic that is fundamental to understanding Earth's climate. The interactions among the sun, Earth, and atmosphere are invariably summarized in graphics found in texts for Earth science courses. However, it is common knowledge that the details of these interactions (even something as basic as the cause of seasons) are poorly understood.

CSRES will develop a set of inexpensive monitoring instruments and experiment protocols that allow educators and their students to conduct many useful and interesting investigations that will provide the "data ownership" required to understand this complex but essential topic. These measurements include solar energy reaching Earth's surface, surface reflectivity, aerosol optical thickness, and surface thermal emissions.; These measurements will be supplemented by NASA products such as global top-of-the-atmosphere radiative balance data available through the NASA Earth Observations (NEO) website and aerosol optical depth, water vapor, and insolation data from ground-based AERONET sites; these data provide frames of reference for interpreting local ground-based measurements in a global context.

CSRES will present its program through a series of professional development workshops for New York City teachers. NYC schools represent a large and very diverse student and teacher population but, even more important for CSRES, NYC is already implementing a major initiative in which science educators are responsible for helping students develop nationally competitive science fair projects. By providing science background, equipment, research opportunities, and mentoring, teachers will be able to conduct their own climate research and they will create the level of support for climate science that is needed to increase the likelihood that students will choose climate-related research projects and, subsequently, climate-related STEM careers. Equally, important, CSRES will also increase teachers' confidence in their abilities to present climate-related topics in their classrooms.

To ensure a sustainable project, CSRES will work with AESP personnel. This long-running NASA national education outreach program reaches educators and students around the U.S. with a combination of "hands-on" contacts and online/distance learning that is ideal for bringing CSRES to a national audience. CSRES will provide travel support for four AESP educators to work with project personnel at Queens College workshops. CSRES has already identified a secondary school partner in Iowa to implement a pilot program under AESP guidance and AESP has committed to finding teacher partners in two more schools by the third year of this project. CSRES will also collaborate with an ongoing GCCE project at Drexel University.

David Brooks
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