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Earth Science Researchers Partner with K-12 Teachers

Earth Science Researchers Partner with K-12 Teachers

Teachers building weather stations

On June 29, Boise State faculty and graduate students hosted 15 4th-9th grade teachers from around the Treasure Valley for a “maker workshop” designed to improve climate literacy in K-12 schools through hands-on learning.

Geosciences graduate students Lucy Gelb, Amy Steimke and Katelyn Watson, and associate professor Alejandro (Lejo) Flores worked alongside teachers to make small, fully-functional weather stations using low-cost, open source electronics.

“Our world is evolving quickly and it’s crucial to integrate technological skills into the K-12 setting,” Steimke said. “Open-source electronics and making provide endless possibilities of activities to spark students’ interest. And while the teachers are on board and eager to innovate, there are many constraints and obstacles that impede how quickly they can adopt new and innovative educational practices.”

Each teacher was given a kit and tutored in assembly and operation of a weather station that measures temperature, humidity, pressure, light level and rainfall. Materials for each weather station cost less than $150 and are based on easy-to-use components that are readily available from online and area vendors like the Reuseum. The weather station can be easily assembled and disassembled in the classroom, allowing K-12 students to learn about environmental and weather monitoring while exploring and building confidence with electronics and computer coding.

Teachers looking at the sky at the National Weather Service offices.The workshop was conducted in partnership with Cindy Busche and the Boise WaterShed, in support of the Water: Innovations for the Future iSTEM strand. It began at the National Weather Service weather forecast office with overview presentations of water-related research provided by Steimke and Watson, as well as tour of the office’s operations and equipment.

After lunch, the workshop continued in the Laboratory for Ecohydrology and Alternative Futuring (LEAF) on campus, where teachers gained hands-on experience assembling the weather stations and becoming familiar with open source electronics. Later in the day, the teachers heard from Christine Chang (Institute for STEM and Diversity Initiatives), who piloted a version of the workshop while a teacher at the Foothills School in 2014. Chang shared ways to integrate the climate literacy activities into the classroom to meet important state K-12 standards. The day concluded with small group discussion and brainstorming on how these activities could be incorporated into the teachers’ classrooms or extended to their schools, districts and broader communities.

Graduate students involved gained important insights through participating.

“It was exciting to share what we are doing as researchers at Boise State and really be able to tie that to what the folks over at the National Weather Service are doing and a hands-on activity that the teachers could bring back to their classrooms to build skill sets important for STEM careers,” said Watson.

“It was great to see how excited the teachers were to step outside their comfort zone to bring an interactive, hands on project like this one into their own classrooms,” Gelb said.

The one-day workshop and materials for the weather station kits were supported financially through Flores’ National Science Foundation CAREER (EAR-1352631) grant “Citizens, Conservation, and Climate: Research and Education for Climate Literacy in Managed Landscapes.”

BY: CIENNA MADRID   PUBLISHED 7:21 AM / JULY 12, 2016

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