Engaging Students in Atmospheric Science: A University-High School Collaboration in British Columbia, Canada

By Sinclair, K. E.; Marshall, S. J. | Journal of Geoscience Education, March 2009 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Engaging Students in Atmospheric Science: A University-High School Collaboration in British Columbia, Canada


Sinclair, K. E., Marshall, S. J., Journal of Geoscience Education


ABSTRACT

Five high schools in British Columbia, Canada, participated in an atmospheric sciences project during the winter of 2006-07 established by researchers at the University of Calgary. Precipitation gauges and temperature and relative humidity probes were installed at each school and students were asked to collect a water sample each day that precipitation accumulated. These samples were used to trace the evolution of stable water isotopes across southwestern Canada. Researchers visited schools to talk about water resources and climate change, and data were collated and given to teachers to use in an atmospheric science project. The participatory nature of this project gave students exposure to data collection and basic analytical techniques used in atmospheric sciences. This was a first attempt at collaboration between our research group and secondary schools, and we point out a number of issues that arose in our study with respect to a successful two-way engagement between researchers and students. These include school engagement, the geographic distribution of the participating schools, the time span of the project, and the time available to schools. There are also a number of data quality considerations, but we were successful overall in acquiring a unique, high-quality dataset that satisfies our research objectives.

INTRODUCTION

While it is common for research scientists to involve undergraduate students in data collection and analysis (e.g. Woltemande and Stanitski-Martin, 2002), it is comparatively rare for the university research community to extend their activities into high schools, despite the obvious advantages associated with students engaging in 'hands on' scientific activities (Ledley et al., 2003). Part of the difficulty in collaborating with high schools is due to the technical nature of most physically-based research. The logistics associated with measuring environmental variables are often too time-consuming and specialized to be of use to high school classes, and scientific research results are typically unavailable until many months, or even years, after the initial data collection. This makes it difficult to fully engage high school students and provide a rewarding return on their time investment. In addition, from a researcher's standpoint, the amount of time and training needed to set up a project in high schools often outweighs the value of the data collected.

Despite these limitations, researchers who have undertaken collaborative projects with high schools have found the process personally rewarding and valuable to their research (e.g. Hobson et al, 1999; Denzais et al., 2002; Kiene et al., 2002; Calhoun et al., 2003). From an educational perspective, research projects expose students to scientific theory and practice, including different methods of data measurement and analysis, and collaboration between secondary schools and universities can result in successful learning initiatives (Morse and Sabelli, 1991; Jackson et al., 1997). However, as Ledley et al. (2003) argue, the main requirement for a successful student-teacher-scientist partnership is that all involved benefit from the collaboration.

This paper describes a university-high school collaboration that was designed to introduce students to techniques used in atmospheric sciences. As researchers at the University of Calgary, we needed to find a way to collect rain and snow samples from winter storm systems that traverse southern British Columbia from the Pacific Coast to the Rocky Mountains. This required the almost simultaneous collection of samples across an 800 km transect in southwestern Canada (Figure 1). These samples are being used in a research project that considers the effect of air mass trajectories and weather conditions on stable water isotopes in winter snowpacks in the Rocky Mountains. This is of interest because the isotopie character of the snowpack reflects the sources and pathways of moisture, and snowpack isotopes can be decoded to reveal the dominant weather systems and the meteorological controls of moisture for the region.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Engaging Students in Atmospheric Science: A University-High School Collaboration in British Columbia, Canada
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?