Sixth-grade scientists

Norfork GLOBE students hit the mark

Bulletin Staff Writer;


Norfork sixth grade student Alyssa Parnell (right) takes a number of weather-related readings Thursday while Brittany Stocklas records the data. The students are participating in the GLOBE Program, in which students from around the country take daily weather measurements and enter them in a database. The students recently recorded their 50,000th measurement.

Photo by Kevin Pieper of the "Baxter Bulletin" staff


NORFORK -- Each day students walk into Wade Geery's classroom, set down their books and begin to work. Without being asked, they break into small groups and scatter around the classroom collecting data from the previous 24 hours and sending it to Boulder, Colo. The information they collect is worth more than their grade. It is being used by scientists around the world to study changes to the environment.


These sixth-grade students at Norfork Elementary School reached a milestone last week -- they recorded their 50,000th data point in only four years of work. They are only the second school in the country to reach this milestone, and that school no longer participates in the program.


Geery's science classes use the GLOBE (Global Learning & Observations to Benefit the Environment) program, which allows the students to participate in real experiments by taking measurements, analyzing data and working on scientific research. This year, the students are collecting information on ozone levels, soil characterization, hydrology, phenology, soil moisture and the atmosphere.


"The first thing they do when they come in is check the weather station," said Geery. "They take the data from the past 24 hours, transfer it to the computer, format it and e-mail it off to UCAR." UCAR is the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.


At the beginning of each school year, Geery selects a few students to train for each project. Those students then teach other students and exchange jobs throughout the year.


Student Sarah Rodgers is in charge of riverflow. "I look at the water release from the dams and its energy," Rodgers said. She compiles her information into a database that provides the class with a monthly report. "This is so much funner than my other classes," she said. "You really see what we are learning."


From their data, students can draw a correlation between their assumptions and what they find. "They are learning hands-on skills," Geery said. "This allows them to see relationships between any number of things." Geery used the example of the river after a hard rain. Students' data shows fluctuating levels of nitrates and chlorides. Each day, the students take between 50 and 150 measurements. They do individual tests, as well as check equipment that monitors around the clock.


The program began in 1999. Sixth-graders that year collected 6,000 data points. That number doubledthe following year. In addition to collecting the data, students also graph their results. Geery believes these skills help with science testing. "If Arkansas begins the Science Benchmark Exam in 2006 or 2007, I believe our students will be well ahead and should see some high scores."


Some of the requirements of the GLOBE program include:

Taking scientifically valid measurements in the fields of atmosphere, hydrology, soils and land cover/phenology.

Reporting their data through the Internet.

Creating maps and graphs on the free interactive Web site to analyze data sets.

Collaborating with scientists and other GLOBE students around the world.

There are 10,000 participating schools in the United States. The GLOBE program now includes 102 countries.

Originally published in the "BAXTER BULLETIN" on Monday, December 22, 2003.