By Tim Leeds
Students from Vicky Michels' fourth-grade class at Lincoln-McKinley Elementary School were at the Rookery on the Milk River conducting water quality research for NASA and other scientific organizations yesterday.
The activities were coordinated through Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE), a hands-on international environmental science and education program.
In the program, founded in 1995, students age 5-18 from schools in more than 80 countries conduct scientifically meaningful environmental measurements, then transmit their results to a database at the GLOBE website. This information is used by participating scientists to improve understanding of the global environment, and the students learn to scientifically study environmental science.
Marilyn Granell, teacher at Lincoln-McKinley, and Karla Geda, teacher at Sunnyside Elementary School, are coordinating the program in Havre. Granell said there are currently 12 Havre teachers who have become involved, and students from a fourth-grade class from Sunnyside, two fifth-grade classes from Highland Park Elementary School, third-, fourth- and fifth-grade
classes from Lincoln-McKinley, from the Havre Middle School and Havre High School involved.
Granell said it's really exciting to see the students get involved in the research. She said they are learning valuable scientific methods and analysis, and learning about their environment at the same time.
"They're learning about their surroundings, their environment," she said. "If they have an interest in it, I think they'll take care of it."
Students conduct daily, weekly and semi-annual measurements of environmental conditions, including atmospheric, hydrology, soil measurements and land cover and biology. They use Global Positioning System technology to determine their exact global position when conducting research.
Granell said another important part of the program is ground testing, which is used to identify parts of satellite photos taken by agencies such as NASA.
Granell said the student observations have been found to be about 80 percent accurate, and are a valuable tool for scientific research.
She said she was first approached about GLOBE by a teacher in Great Falls. She didn't receive any more information, but after doing research on her own found out that there was a training session in Missoula last summer. She and Geda attended, and have been training Havre teachers in the program for the last year.
Granell said there are already government agencies in the Havre area involved, such as the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Hill County Conservation District, and she would like to get more involved. The Conservation District gave the program a mini-grant this year to purchase equipment.
Granell said she would like to expand the program to include more classes in area schools. She said if more teachers wish to join the program, they could expand to do so.
She said the initial NASA EOS program grant used to buy the test kits is done, and she isn't sure where funding will come from in the future. She said she hopes the program will continue, that she's viewing it as an ongoing scientific research project.
"I'm hoping that in five years or more they're still going out," she said, "doing protocols, seeing if there are any changes in water quality, in wildlife."
For more information about the GLOBE program, visit its website at www.globe.gov.