The GLOBE Program (an acronym for Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) was begun by the U.S. government in 1994 to improve science teaching and learning. Today it is used by more than 24,000 teachers in nearly 15,000 schools in 104 countries. K-12 students in GLOBE schools collect data following rigorous scientific protocols in five principal areas: atmosphere, soil, hydrology, seasonal change, and land cover/biology. The students use scientific instruments ranging from thermometers to a GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) receiver, pH and conductivity meters, and home-made clinometers and densiometers. They send their data via the Internet to GLOBE research scientists who use the data to study long-term global change. Students can ask questions and design research projects, using not only their own data, but also those from all other GLOBE schools. The GLOBE Program thus embodies the hands-on, inquiry-based, authentic research approach to science education advocated by the New York State Board of Regents, the National Academy of Sciences, and every other institution seeking to improve the science education experience for our students.
The relationships between GLOBE protocols and learning activities and New York City Performance Standards are outlined here in two ways: (1) a brief description of how the eight broad science learning standards are addressed by the GLOBE Program, and (2) a series of tables showing GLOBE linkage with each of the standard’s sub-areas.
Science Standard 1: Physical Sciences Concepts This standard addresses matter and energy and the relationships between them, including the structure and properties of materials, nature and application of different energy types, and relationship of matter and energy in the complex Earth System. All GLOBE protocol measurements describe and/or measure Earth materials (in the field) opening students’ eyes to materials, energy, and processes that illustrate precisely the concepts contained in this Standard. Several classroom learning activities give students tools with which to examine materials, predict how their properties will affect natural processes, and experience in devising experiments to test those predictions.
Science Standard 2: Life Sciences Concepts This Standard focuses on the structure and function of organisms, the interdependence of organisms in ecosystems, relationship of energy to ecosystems, and the scientific basis for heredity. The interconnectedness of the environment and flow of energy and materials through it are the theme that connects all GLOBE protocols. GLOBE addresses the Life Sciences Concepts directly in its Phenology (seasonal change) and Land Cover/Biology protocol areas, and the integrative Earth Systems applications of GLOBE data.
Science Standard 3: Earth and Space Sciences Concepts This Standard focuses on Earth materials; energy forms, transformations, and cycles; Earth’s place in the solar system and universe, and the origin and evolution of the universe. GLOBE protocols are all about Earth materials, and K-12 students not only become aware of the materials, but measure their properties, track their changes, and are led to inquire about the processes by which the changes come about. All Earth materials are studied in GLOBE: those of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and solid Earth. GLOBE explicitly fosters understanding of the reservoirs and fluxes that define the multiple cycles of the Earth System. Through their GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) measurements and understanding of how this technology works, students also learn about the size of their planet and ways to study something so much larger than themselves.
Science Standard 4: Scientific Connections and Applications This Standard addresses big ideas and unifying concepts, such as order and organization, change and constancy, and t he impact of science. GLOBE emphasizes a student’s ability to recognize the big picture, over-arching concepts such as Earth Systems Science, material and energy cycles, and the way in which Earth changes in the short and long terms. It also leads students to recognize how small-scale, local studies of one environmental variable relate to global scale processes in other systems.
Science Standard 5: Scientific Thinking This standard focuses on a student’s ability to frame questions about natural phenomena, use evidence to support possible answers to those questions, and to devise ways to resolve problems. GLOBE students are immersed in scientific thinking from Kindergarten on; they are prompted by the scientific protocols and learning activities to ask questions every day—compare today’s atmosphere measurements with yesterday’s, with last year’s, with other schools’ data in Australia, Bangladesh, Benin, etc.
Science Standard 6: Science Tools and Technologies This Standard addresses students’ abilities to use scientific instruments and to analyze the data that they obtain. GLOBE students collect data using instruments appropriate for their development level, including: rulers, thermometers, pH paper or pH meters, conductivity meters, balances, GPS receivers, rain gauges, hydrometers, sling psychrometers, barometers, soil augers, etc. They use replicate measurements to insure precision, calibrate instruments to insure accuracy, and learn to question data from all sources.
Science Standard 7: Scientific Communication This Standard is concerned with a student’s ability to communicate scientific concepts and data clearly by describing aspects of the natural world using accurate data, graphs, or other appropriate media to convey depth of conceptual understanding in science. All GLOBE students collect data on standardized data sheets, graph and map the information. Advanced students manipulate the GLOBE database online to create more sophisticated visualizations including animations. Students learn different methods for displaying and comparing data, and learn how animations can show variations of selected environmental variables in time and space. Students learn to use sophisticated search engines built into the GLOBE database to retrieve, analyze, and display data from GLOBE schools throughout the world.
Science Standard 8: Scientific Investigation This Standard addresses a student’s competence in carrying out scientific research, by completing projects drawn from the following kinds of investigations: controlled experiment, fieldwork, design, secondary research. This is the essence of the GLOBE Program!! All GLOBE protocols involve collecting data in the field, analyzing the data, and constructing hypotheses to explain them. In addition to the protocols, some of the learning activities also focus on designing experiments – asking questions, isolating variables, establishing procedures, etc. Students construct several instruments if their teachers so desire, including thermometers, sundial, Secchi disk, turbidity tube, clinometer, densiometer, and even their own standardized weather station. In addition to promoting primary data acquisition, GLOBE’s database is a rich source (more than 10,000,000 individual data items) for local, regional, national, and worldwide secondary research.