Adventures in Environmental Study and Science

Article excerpt

TWO recent events illustrate how the environment could provide perhaps the most important conjunction between education and science, with the added bonus of offering advances in both areas to girls and women.

First was the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis on an 11-day environmental mission focusing on ozone in the atmosphere. Less publicized was the announcement (which happened to come the same day) of a government-backed program to get students around the world involved in collecting environmental data to be used by researchers.

Project GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) will also include special training for teachers. Funded with $2.5 million in grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), GLOBE has generated interest in some 80 countries.

The idea is to have students conduct earth studies in their own ecosystem (animal life, vegetation, soil condition), track weather patterns and air quality, and investigate local water conditions. The information they gather then would be funneled by computer through the Internet to a central team of scientists for evaluation.

This kind of hands-on experience is the best way to get young people turned on to scientific study and to help them get beyond the simplistic philosophical and political assertions about the environment to the "good science" which all sides agree is necessary to make difficult choices about pollution prevention and the conservation of nature.

Some far-sighted teachers are doing this already. For example, Tim Brandy's fourth- and fifth-graders at the Walker Middle School in Ashland, Ore., for several years have been designing, building, and maintaining a "xeriscape" that makes use of native plants that don't need artificial watering. …