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August 1999

Middle-school teachers bid Boulder adieu

What can you LEARN in one day?
Staff participants in LEARN: Atmospheric Science Explorers

It's been a summer of summation and celebration for the 37 middle- and elementary-school science teachers who spent most of June at UCAR. This marked the third and final summer institute for the participants in LEARN: Atmospheric Science Explorers. Judging from the evaluations, this summer's program was a hit. One teacher commented, "I have learned an amazing amount," and another wrote, "The project has increased my knowledge base immensely."

"We've seen the mercury vapor light."

--Visitors to the ACD lab of Barry Lefer and Teresa Campos

Says LEARN director Carol McLaren, "It feels to me like this was our most successful summer. A lot of the content and learning has fallen into place."

LEARN isn't quite over yet. During the coming school year, LEARN staff will join NCAR and UOP scientists on multiday road trips to the outlying Colorado schools where LEARN teachers teach.

Montrose teacher Mike Nadiak prepares a sample of his breath for isoprene analysis, part of a field visit with Peter Harley (ACD). (Photo courtesy of LEARN.)

Weather lends itself nicely to multidisciplinary teaching, in which a number of subjects (language arts, social studies, science) are woven together and taught in a unified way--by following a ship's voyage, for instance. "That's one of the trends, to integrate across the content areas," says Carol. When the atmosphere is followed over a semester or a school year, rather than just for a week or two, the sweep of the seasons can be observed and analyzed by students in real time. Weather and climate instruction is furthered through print modules and hands-on exercises developed and brought to the teachers by LEARN staff and scientists within NCAR and UOP.

"We always follow the speed limit and we don't drive through cornfields."

--José Meitín, NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory (now visiting JOSS), referring to his lab's renowned storm chasers

Each summer in Boulder, the LEARN teachers have spent one or two days "shadowing" a scientist or a support group. This year more than 20 staff were directly involved as shadowees. Since this summer's theme was atmospheric chemistry, many of these in-house hosts were from ACD (see sidebar). Over a dozen more scientists gave presentations during the three-week institute.

"I think it was an eye-opening experience for [the teachers] to see what happens behind the scenes of a field project," says Steve Williams (JOSS), who hosted five teachers. "They never imagined the tremendous level of effort required, from planning to setting up the project infrastructure, particularly in a foreign country." Joan Berryman, a teacher from Montrose, summed up JOSS's efforts this way: "They are neurotic about details!"

According to Sandra Henderson, LEARN co-investigator, this kind of in-person contact helps make research more real to the participants--one reason why LEARN is such a hit with them. "I think it's imperative that national institutions like NCAR be involved in teacher enhancement, in large part because there's so much here to share and the demand is out there," says Sandra. "Our job is to package and communicate it in a way that's accessible."

Nancy Smith (Montrose) takes air samples while shadowing Jim Greenberg (ACD). (Photo courtesy of LEARN.)

That access isn't taken for granted in distant towns like Joes, Akron, and Bayfield. Some rural schools have state-of-the-art equipment, but others are still relying on Apple IIs. Satellite connections and modem links remain vulnerable to failure in rural areas.

"It's always someone or something."

--Karyn Sawyer, JOSS, on the complexities of organizing field campaigns

Carol and Sandra are already working with collaborators on ideas for a follow-up to LEARN, including a World Wide Web component as well as other ways of reaching far-flung teachers. "We want to continue K-12 outreach at NCAR," says Carol. As with LEARN, the results could make more of a difference than we perceive from Boulder. "I wish you could come to my classroom and watch me teach," wrote one teacher as this summer came to a close. "You would see how excited I am about what I learned." •Bob Henson

What can you LEARN in one day?

Teachers became interns for a day on 10 June as participants in LEARN scattered across the institution to follow UOP and NCAR staff through a typical, or not so typical, day. It hailed buckets in the foothills, where several teachers joined ACD's Lee Klinger near Buckingham Park to collect data on vegetation and view the forest through Lee's Gaia-based successional theories. Hail itself was the topic for the teachers who shadowed MMM alumna Nancy Knight. Other participants learned the lingo of weather forecasting at COMET, measured emissions from pine trees and mango leaves in ACD, or learned about the intricacies of research logistics in JOSS. The teachers summarized their day afield in a poster session that closed out the summer institute on 24 June. Shown here are a few quotes and scenes from the posters. •BH

Staff participants in LEARN: Atmospheric Science Explorers

Guy Brasseur, Teresa Campos, Chris Cantrell, Jim Greenberg, Peter Harley, Beth Holland, Lee Klinger, Barry Lefer, Sasha Madronich, Bill Mankin, Steve Massie (ACD)

Wendy Abshire, Rich Cianflone (COMET)

Tim Brown, Joan Burkepile, Paul Charbonneau, Tom Holzer (HAO)

John Gille (HIRDLS)

Steve Williams (JOSS)

Charlie Knight, Nancy Knight (retired), Peggy LeMone, Raj Pandya (MMM)

Katy Ginger (PAGE)

Kevin Petty (RAP)

Jeff Boote, Tim Scheitlin (SCD)

Bob Henson, Zhenya Gallon (UCAR Communications)

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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall