GLOBE for the AP Environmental Science Classroom

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Authored by

  • Judy Jerolaman
    Gill St. Bernard's School
    Gladstone, New Jersey

The GLOBE program can be extremely beneficial to both your students and your curriculum. As described on its website, GLOBE is “a worldwide, hands-on, primary and secondary school-based education and science program.” It involves students around the world who are making scientifically valid measurements in the local environment. Measurements pertaining to water quality and rainfall are just small examples of the kinds of data that can be collected. Doing science in the field excites the students. Discovery- and inquiry-based curriculum enables them to become scientific thinkers.

Costs and Benefits of the GLOBE Program

To become a GLOBE school and a part of the GLOBE program, a lead teacher must attend one of the teacher training workshops, which are held across the United States throughout the year. Getting involved in the GLOBE program also requires a financial outlay for equipment. For example, students might collect hydrology data, including pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrates, alkalinity, conductivity, temperature, and turbidity, which require the purchase of water test kits (dissolved oxygen, nitrates, and alkalinity), a pH meter, and a conductivity meter. With this equipment, a teacher can create limitless opportunities for student research. By taking scientific measurements in the fields of atmosphere, hydrology, soils, and other disciplines, the students become actively involved in doing science. They report their data to the GLOBE online database. Then the students make maps and graphs of their data along with the data of other schools from around the world; they can compare their data to global or regional data. They can also collaborate with scientists and other GLOBE students. Teachers and students can initiate further research from the data sets and investigate in greater depth. The results of their research can subsequently be published on the GLOBE website.

Teachers receive GLOBE training at a professional development workshop. Although GLOBE doesn’t charge a fee, the workshop site may charge a nominal fee. At the workshop, the teacher receives a teacher's guide notebook, videos, and other materials. Some of the materials are “make and take” and can be used in the field immediately. GLOBE provides continued support from its help desk, scientists, and partners. The opportunity to connect with other teachers, students, and scientists worldwide is unique. As an added benefit, this program provides the teachers with many lab protocols, activities, and support materials.

In addition to formal protocols, or experiments, GLOBE offers a wide variety of learning activities that can be used to introduce or reinforce a concept. The hydrology protocols include both abiotic and biotic components. There are also protocols for atmosphere, soils, GPS, and Earth as a system. With the use of the “Maps and Graphs” sections, the possibilities for classroom lessons are endless. Teachers can easily develop a lesson comparing the amount of precipitation and flora found in a certain type of biome. The pH of rainwater in different parts of the United States could be compared using maps that indicate where acid precipitation is prevalent. Climate data from various parts of the world can provide a valuable learning experience as the students detect global climate trends.

Using the GLOBE Database

Even if you don’t become a GLOBE school, you can still use the multitude of resources available on the GLOBE website. All of the teacher resources are available as PDFs and can be downloaded, printed, and photocopied to use in your classroom. GLOBE also has an extensive online database that is free.

Here’s an example activity using the database: Have your students use it to compare nitrate concentrations to seasonal runoff. They investigate the possibility of nitrate contamination and its connection to runoff by comparing seasonal nitrate concentrations. They analyze the data and conclude whether there is any connection between nitrate concentrations and agriculture/farming in their particular area. This analysis of data naturally leads to a field study—of a small, nearby farm, a golf course, or housing developments—that may be using large amounts of fertilizer.

The GLOBE program includes topics covered extensively in the AP® Environmental Science curriculum. Most protocols and activities vary in level of difficulty and can be modified to fit the needs of individual students.

Being a GLOBE school is a fantastic opportunity for your students to participate in science “outside the confines of their classroom” and empowers them, through their data contributions, to make a difference. And remember, if being a GLOBE school is not a possibility, you can still use the GLOBE online resources.