CMOP: The Best Environmental Education Program You’ve (Probably) Never Heard About
Coastal Margin Science and Education in the Era of Collaboratories
by Vanessa L. Green, Nievita Bueno Watts, Karen Wegner, Michael Thompson, Amy F. Johnson, Tawnya D. Peterson and António M. Baptista
nterdisciplinary science is needed to make big decisions when it comes to complex and fragile ecological environments such as the Columbia River estuary. Effective communication of that science is necessary to engage students and to work across scientists, educators. policy-makers and the general community. For these reasons, the Center for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction (CMOP) has developed a “coastal margin collaboratory,” which brings together sensor networks, computer models, cyber-infrastructure, people and institutions to better understand the Columbia River coastal margin ecosystem as a whole (Baptista et al. 2008).
CMOP scientists study the Columbia River and transform the openly shared data and tools into a better understanding of current conditions and into the anticipation of future trends from increasing climate and anthropogenic pressures. Many types of users access CMOP data for their own needs and/or collaborate with CMOP on joint scientific and educational efforts. Through the collaboratory, CMOP enables a common understanding among interested groups such as natural resource managers for local, state, federal and tribal agencies, enabling effective discussions and long-range planning.
WHAT ARE COASTAL MARGINS?
Coastal margins, broadly defined as the interface between land and ocean, contain important and highly productive ecosystems. They often mitigate the negative impacts of human activities from local to global scales, for example ‘filtering out’ excess nutrients that enter watersheds from fertilizer applications. Coastal margin environments are naturally variable because of tides, seasons and year-to- year differences in the forcing from rivers, oceans, and the atmosphere. Ecosystems adapt to that natural variability, but are often less well equipped to adjust to major shifts caused by population growth, economic development and global climate change. CMOP seeks to understand how biological and chemical components of the Columbia River interface with and are affected by physical processes, with the ultimate goal of predicting how they might respond to climate change and increased regional development.
A recent study (Frontier Economics Limited 2012) estimates that the world’s ten most populated river basins account today for l0% of the global gross domestic product, and that by 2050 that share will grow Io 25%, which will be more than the combined gross domestic product of the United States, Germany and Japan. This type of growth could be ecologically devastating, locally and globally, should it not be managed in a perspective of long-term sustainability and with the support of sound science. The datasets and predictions provided by the CMOP collaboratory can serve as useful examples that can be “exported” to other similar river and estuary systems worldwide.
THE COLUMBIA RIVER-TO-OCEAN ECOSYSTEM
The Columbia River watershed extends across seven states in the United States and two provinces in Canada, and contributes about 70% of the freshwater input to the Pacific Ocean between San Francisco and Juan de Fuca (Barnes et al. 1972). Big decisions are needed to determine policy about the hydroelectric dams, protection and regulation of the migratory salmon, and changes in water quality such as ocean-driven estuarine hypoxia and acidification. All of this is set in the context of continued population growth, economic development and climatic change-and amidst a complex regulatory environment that includes the Endangered Species Act, a federal treaty between the U.S government and Native American tribes, and a soon-to-be renegotiated treaty between the U.S. and Canada.
CMOP science has already led to the identification of previously unrecognized environmental issues, from a benign but ecologically relevant seasonal red water bloom in the Columbia River estuary (Hertfort et aI. 2012) to the development of seasonal and severe ocean-driven estuarine hypoxia (Roegner et al. 2011) and potential acidification- and is showing how those apparently distinct processes are tied together. CMOP science is also contributing to an understanding of anthropogenic and climatic changes to estuarine and ocean processes, which affect salmon habitat and life cycle.
THE CMOP EDUCATIONAL PATHWAY
Progress towards our scientific goals has opened exciting opportunities to entrain a new and diverse workforce in coastal margin science. CMOP offers an educational pathway that includes a broad range of age-appropriate activities for students and teachers. Our pathway includes short courses; camps; sustained professional development programs for teachers; curricula for high school classes; individualized research experiences through high school, undergraduate and teacher internships; interdisciplinary graduate curricula through Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and affiliated degree programs at partner universities; and lifelong opportunities for scientists and natural resources professionals to incorporate outcomes of CMOP science in their activities and decision-making processes (Figure 2).
From left, Sam Case third-grade teacher Fanny Drews, Newport Intermediate fifth-grade teacher Christie Walker, Taft Elementary fifth-grade teacher Valerie Baker and sixth-grade teachers Beth Parsons and Kara Allen identify microbes that live on marine debris. Photo courtesy of NewsGuard of Lincoln County, Oregon.
Teachers and informal educators engage with CMOP in a variety of ways. Teachers access data through user-friendly modules that can be used to plot time series and explore correlations between estuary variables. As an example, teachers could design an experiment that demonstrates how red water blooms influence dissolved oxygen levels, using CMOP’s models to explore various scenarios. CMOP offers a regularly updated activity archive on the CMOP website (Science Activities and Curriculum URL). Lessons are designed for adaptability between age groups and data are appropriate for math, science, and social science classrooms. These lesson plans align with the essential principles of Ocean Literacy and the Next Generation Science Standards (Ocean Literacy Guide URL) and were generated through an interactive teacher professional development workshop. Teachers can engage in individualized internships of their own, conducting original research within CMOP teams and incorporating their experiences into their classroom curricula.
A three-year collaboration of the Oregon Coast Aquatic and Marine Partnership (OCAMP) consisting of CMOP, the Lincoln County School District, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon Sea Grant, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife/Oregon Hatchery Research Center, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and the Bureau of Land Management’s Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area aimed to provide teachers with the tools needed to carry out meaningful field experiences and inquiry driven learning while improving ocean literacy during sustained, year-round professional development colloquia as well as summer workshops. A follow-up program, entitled the Oregon Coast Regional STEM Center, extended OCAMP’s partnership to include Tillamook School District, Western Oregon University, and a variety of local businesses and agencies, and seeks to support teachers in their use of problem-based learning to improve student outcomes in STEM disciplines through engagement and the incorporation of 2lst century skills. The latter program is being carried out in a blended model of professional development, with in-person and web-based activities. CMOP can also engage with an entire school community through the CMOP- School Collaboratories (CSC) program. Cohorts of teachers from CSC partner schools can engage with CMOP to develop an integrated curriculum that emphasizes an inter-connected environment (Hugo et al. 2013).
THE VALUE OF A SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CENTER
The structure of the National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center program (NSF STC) has greatly enabled the development of this educational pathway through the decade-long investment in exploratory yet rigorous, potentially transformative science. lt is this structure that allows CMOP to expose students to a multi-disciplinary approach, engaging scientists from a broad range of relevant fields and from several collaborating universities, as well as practitioners from many state, federal and tribal agencies and from industry. The longevity of the STC investment has also contributed to our ability to effectively engage in sustained efforts to broaden participation among Native American, Alaska Native (Bueno Watts and Smythe 2015) and other groups underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines.
The synergy among anchoring academic partners (OHSU, Oregon State University and University of Washington, in the case of CMOP) is critically important to the success of a STC. Also critical is the engagement of regional stakeholders, which offer a natural, realistic, enriching and often pressing context for our science and education programs. For instance, Native American tribes of the Columbia River have historically been active and effective stewards of the land, water and natural resources in the basin. The Columbia River lnter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) has partnered with CMOP to identify potential threats to salmon and lamprey through investigation of factors that influence habitat quality. This collaboration has effectively engaged several Native American students in the CMOP education pathway and has also educated non-Native students on tribal cultures and natural resource management strategies.
DEVELOPING THE COASTAL MARGIN WORKFORCE
CMOP students are engaged at all levels of the collaboratory. They participate in the development of sensors and models, and take active part in oceanographic cruises that might range from research to mariner-training vessels, autonomous underwater vehicles (Figure 3) and even kayaks (Rathmell et al. 2013). CMOP students, from high school to graduate, conduct research projects that relate to important biological hotspots, attempting holistic descriptions of their underlying physics and biogeochemistry that cover gene-to-climate scales. Students learn, shoulder-to-shoulder with researchers and practitioners, how to characterize, predict and inter-relate processes driving estuarine hypoxia and acidification. plankton blooms, and the biogeochemistry of lateral bays and of estuarine turbidity maxima (ETM)-turbid water regions located at the heads of coastal plain estuaries near the freshwater/saltwater interface. CMOP students also gain an understanding of broad topics that provide context to CMOP research science initiatives, such as global nutrient cycles, climate change, managing natural resources, mitigating natural hazards, and protecting fragile ecosystems.
Within the curriculum or with their mentor teams, students conduct fieldwork in the Columbia River estuary and in the coastal waters of Oregon and Washington using a variety of approaches, ranging from simple river-front water sampling from a dock to participation in major research campaigns aboard University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) vessels. Students gain hands-on experience within laboratories, using state-of-the-art equipment such as imaging flow cytometers (FlowCAM), an Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), a Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth Sensor (CTD), or a Scanning Electron Microscope. Students also gain exposure to the “Virtual Columbia River,” a data-rich simulation environment that offers multiple representations of circulation and ecological processes, including their variability and change across river-to-shelf scales (Virtual Columbia River URL). The models that form the Virtual Columbia River simulate estuarine conditions, enabling predictions of changing physical properties (tides, currents, salinity and temperature) and biogeochemical cycles (e.g., nitrogen and carbon) important to ecosystem management. Comparisons between field observations and model simulations allow for continued learning and refinement of the process.
INCORPORATING CMOP SCIENCE INTO THE CLASSROOM
Curricula available on the CMOP website combine elements of coastal oceanography, environmental microbiology, biogeochemistry, computational sciences, and information technology. Student participants in K-12 activities have continued working with CMOP, ‘graduating” to more sophisticated, longer-term participation as undergraduate interns. Likewise, undergraduate interns have continued their research by matriculating into the CMOP-affiliated M.S./Ph.D. Environmental Science and Engineering degree program offered through the lnstitute of Environmental Health (IEH) at OHSU. IEH graduates have gone on to related careers in academia, private research, and with related federal and state agencies. To date, CMOP has served over 800 K-l2 students, over 70 teachers, over 100 undergraduate students, and has graduated 28 M.S. and Ph.D. students. CMOP students have graduated from the Environmental Science and Engineering Program at Oregon Health & Science University; the Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Program at Oregon State University; the Computer Science program at Portland State University; the Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences program at the University of Maryland; the Computer Science program at the University of Utah; the Physical Oceanography Program and the Biological Oceanography Program at the University of Washington. Students who have engaged in the CMOP Education “pathway” have become citizen scientists with a nuanced knowledge of coastal-margin science issues, and many have gained expertise and skills that have enabled them to contribute to a growing professional workforce in coastal margin science.
For middle- and high-school students, CMOP offers classes. day-camps and high-school internships in partnership with Saturday Academy, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing hands-on, in-depth learning and problem-solving activities. Past topics have included microbiology, marine biology, oceanography, and ocean technology. The curriculum is designed to enable students to easily identify the importance of coastal-margin related issues to their own academic interests and personal lives.
Undergraduate interns join CMOP mentor teams, which include a “Frontline Mentor” and a “senior Scientist.” The Frontline Mentor-typically a graduate student, staff member or post-doctoral fellow-establishes a project relevant to one or more CMOP research initiative. The Senior Scientist mentor provides guidance and ensures academic caliber. Over the course of the ten-week program, interns gain autonomy within their mentor teams as they gain contextual knowledge and skills. lnterns regularly interact with each other and with other CMOP participants through professional development seminars encompassing scientific themes, career opportunities and scientific ethics. lnterns visit sites along the river from Bonneville Dam to downtown Portland and to the mouth of the Columbia River estuary, to gain a first-hand understanding and appreciation of the complex interactions of biological, chemical, and physical processes. lnterns document their work through a daily lab notebook, a weekly blog (Undergraduate lnternships URL), a final presentation and a synthesizing paper. lntern research projects have been thoroughly incorporated into CMOP research; interns have co-authored CMOP publications in peer-reviewed journals (Publications URL) and have presented at national and international conferences (Presentations URL).
The CMOP Education program seeks to make full use of the resources available to this NSF STC to enable a wide range of teachers, students, and other users to learn more about and contribute to place-based knowledge of coastal margins. The University of Washington’s Office of Educational Assessment regularly evaluates the effectiveness of our program. Evaluations include surveys and focus groups with each participant cohort as well as follow-up surveys for longitudinal data. Data analyses demonstrate that high school and undergraduate participants in CMOP programs have increased interest in STEM education; increased confidence in their ability to engage in STEM research; enhanced relevant technical and professional skills, and, for undergraduate students, clarified research foci both within their degree programs and related to their decision of graduate programs. Eighty-seven percent of undergraduate survey respondents who obtained bachelor degrees went on to matriculate into STEM graduate programs, 4O% in fields related to their internships. All of these graduates agreed or strongly agreed that “Being part of the [CMOP] summer internship strengthened my application to this graduate degree program.”
CMOP is primarily supported by the National Science Foundation, through cooperative agreement OCE-O4246O2. Crant CEO-I034611 extended our CSC program to Native Alaskans.
Baptista, A., Howe, B., Freire, J., Maier, D., & Silva, C. T. (2008).
Scientific exploration in the era of ocean observatories. Computing in Science & Engineering, l0 (3),53-58.
Barnes, C. A., Duxbury, A. C., and Morse, B. (1972). Circulation and selected properties of the Columbia River effluent at sea. ln: The Columbio River Estuory and Adjocent Oceon Woters: Bioenvironmental Studies, edited by A.T. Pruter and D.L. Alverson. Seattle: University of Washington Press, pp. 71-80.
Bueno Watts, N. & Smythe, W F. (2013). It takes a community to raise a scientist:A case for community-inspired research and science education in an Alaska Native community. Current: The Journal of Morine Educotion 2B(3).
Frontier Economics Limited. (2012). Exploring the links between woter ond economic growth: A report prepared for HSBC. London, England: Frontier Economics Limited.
Herfort, 1., Peterson, T. D., Prahl, F. C., McCue, L. A., Needoba, J. A., Crump, B. C., Roegner, C. C., Campbell, V., & Zuber, P. QO12). Red waters of Myrionecto rubrq are biogeochemical hotspots for the Columbia River estuary with impacts on primary/secondary productions and nutrient cycles. Estuories ond Coqsts,35 (3), B7B-891.
Hugo, R., Smythe, W., McAllister, S., Young, B., Maring, B. & Baptista, A. (2013). Lessons learned from a K-’12 geoscience education program in an Alaska Native community. Journal of Sustainability Education,5 (SSN 2-51:7452).
Ocean Literacy Cuide URL http:,/www.coexploration.orgl ocean literacy/documents/Ocea n LitC u ide_LettersizeV2.pdf
Presentations URL http://www.stccmop.orglknowledge_transfer/presentations
Publications URL http://www.stccmop.orglpublications
Rathmell, K., Wilkin, M., Welle, P., Mattson, T., & Baptista, A. (2015). A very smart kayak. Current: The Journal of Marine Education QB)3.
Roegner, C. C., Needoba, J. A., & Baptista, A. (20I). Coastal upwelling supplies oxygen-depleted water to the Columbia River estuary. PLoS ONE, 6 @), e18672.
doi:1O.137 1 /journal.pone.00l 8672
Science Activities and Curriculum URL http://www.stccmop.org/education/teacher/activityarchive
Undergraduate lnternships URL http://www.stccmop.org/education/undergraduate
Virtual Columbia River URL http://www.stccmop.org/datamart/virtualcolumbiariver
Vanessa L. Green M.S. serves as Director of Student Development and Diversity at the NSF Science and Technology Center for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction. Having earned a M.S. in Higher Education Administration she has focused her career on broadening participation and increasing engagement, persistence and retention among first-generation and underrepresented students in high school, undergraduate and graduate programs. She served as a founding faculty member and Dean of Students at the King George School in Vermont and served as a member of the Board of Trustees at Marlboro College. She currently serves on the Education and Outreach Steering Committee for the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere lnvestigations (C-DEBI).
Nievita Bueno Watts Ph.D. is a geotogist, science educator and Director of Academic Programs at the NSF Science and Technology Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction. She conducts research on broadening the participation of underrepresented minorities in the sciences and serves on the Board of Directors of the Geoscience Alliance, a national organization dedicated to building pathways for Native American participation in the geosciences.
Karen Wegner MSW was rhe first Director for K-12 Education for the NSF Science and Technology Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction. She brought years of experience as a wildlife biologist and environmental educator to CMOP. Along with education partners Saturday Academy and the SMILE Program she developed K-12 programs initially offered at CMOP. She credits the success of the K-12 program to the fantastic support offered by CMOP researches and students. Karen is now a Palliative Care Social Worker and Program Manager in Montana.
Michael Thompson Ph.D. is the Education and Outreach Coordinator at the NSF Science ahd Technology Center for Coastal Margin and Observation. He has an M.S. in Biochemistry and a PhD in Chemical Education with a focus in Engineering Education. He has been instrumental in the establishment of the EPICS High-school program, development and implementation of teacher training workshops, STEM learning communities for undergraduates, and service-learning experiences for high-school and undergraduate students.
Amy F. Johnson M.S, serves as the Managing Director for the NSF Science and Technology Center for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction. Having earned an M.S. in Management in Science and Technology, she has years of experience managing in science and technology companies and education institutions. Prior to joining CMOP she was the Assistant Dean for Craduate Education at the OCI School of Science & Engineering at the Oregon Health & Science University.
Tawnya D. Peterson Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Institute of Environmental Health at Oregon Health & Science University. She holds a Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography and carries out research that seeks to identify the factors that shape planktonic community diversity and function in aquatic systems. ln addition to scientific research, she is interested in the development and implementation of professional development programs for K-l2 teachers.
Antonio M. Baptista Ph.D. is a professor and director of the lnstitute of Environmental Health, Oregon Health & Science University and the director of the NSF Science and Technology Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction. He has 25 years of experience in team science and graduate-level teaching, and uses leading edge coastal-margin science and technology as a catalyst for informed management decisions, workforce development and broadening participation.
All Photos: Courtesy of CMOP staff member Jeff Schilling
Reprinted from Current, the Journal of the National Marine Education Association
Can School Gardening Help Save Civilization?
(An Essay in Four Parts)
by Carter D. Latendresse
The Catlin Gabel School
This paper is an argument for gardening in schools, focusing on two months of integrated English-history sixth grade curriculum that explores the relationships between a number of current environmental problems—notably hunger, water scarcity, topsoil loss, and global warming—and the land-use practices that led to the downfall of ancient Mesopotamia. This paper suggests that world leaders today are repeating some of the same mistakes that caused desertification to topple the Sumerian empire. It then explains how our sixth grade class explores solutions to the existing emergencies by studying Mesopotamia, ancient myth, gardening, and contemporary dystopian fiction. Finally, this paper posits a new cosmology that might help to remake western civilization, saving it from the threat of present-day ecological crises.
Part I: Four Enduring Understandings
Part II: Nine Reasons for a Garden
When we present the following nine reasons for our study of Mesopotamia in the garden, we do so in the problem-solution format so that our eleven and twelve year-olds do not feel overwhelmed by the quandaries of history, society, and science, and so that they might exercise their innovation and collaboration during their civilization-creation group work, thereby feeling efficacious while creating solutions for what ails us today. I will therefore present the nine reasons here in that same problem-solution fashion.
The Water reason
Problem: In his landmark book When the Rivers Run Dry, Fred Pearce (2006) tells the story of the Sumerians in the Fertile Crescent 7500 years ago, how they build the first giant irrigation systems using river water from the Tigris and Euphrates. They dug large canals and erected gigantic levees to protect themselves from the spring floods. However, the world’s first writing, cuneiform, done on clay tablets, notes that 3800 years ago their once great farm system was failing, the southern Mesopotamian “black fields becoming white” and “plants choked with salt” (Pearce, 2006, p. 186). The empire had to switch from wheat to barley, which is more tolerant of salt than its predecessor. The barley eventually failed as well, as “the salt chased civilization through Mesopotamia as mercilessly as any barbarian horde” (Pearce, 2006, p. 187). Pearce goes on to compare Mesopotamia to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, noting that great ancient civilizations emerged in environments where controlling the water was the highest priority. These ancient worlds, sometimes referred to as hydraulic civilizations in class, are unlike the more modest and oldest continually settled city of Jericho in Palestine, which has sustained farming on a smaller scale for 9000 years due to a spring producing 20 gallons a second (Pearce, 2006, p. 185). The grander cities of Mesopotamia were vulnerable to desertification, climate change, and silt built up in their waterways. Jericho, on the other hand, supplies a sustainable, if less impressive because less massive example for future generations.
What do the water problems of Mesopotamia, the students want to know, have to do with us today in Portland, Oregon, where it seems to rain for eight straight months every year? According to Maude Barlow, co-founder of Blue Planet Project, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has published the alarming statistic that forty U.S. states are currently threatened by water scarcity. Not only are we vulnerable nationally to water shortage, but worldwide, lack of clean water is the leading cause of childhood death (Barlow). When pondering these threats, one begins to see that the misuse of water has continued unabated from the ancient world to present day. Take, for example, the wastefulness of the typical meat-based diet. “To produce just one pound of beef takes thousands of gallons of water. . . and this is [in] a world in which two-thirds of all people are expected to face water shortage in less than a generation” (Lappé & Lappé, 2002, p. 15).
Solution: The Sierra Club (2012) has a website on water conservation that we share with our students, asking them to think about using some of the strategies presented there in their own homes. Strategies include installing a low-flow showerhead, replacing the lawn with drought resistant plants, using drip irrigation in gardens rather than sprinklers, and watering with saved gray water. (Top Tips section, para. 13, 20, 22, and 26; and Other Considerations section, para. 2).
Here on campus, we have installed drip irrigation in our raised beds in order to reduce water evaporation. We have also installed an instructional rain barrel off of our cob oven roof in the garden that waters a tulip and lily bed so that students can see a water reclamation project in action.
The Dirt reason
Problem: In his article “Our Good Earth,” Mann notes that “today more than six billion people rely on food grown on just 11 percent of the global land surface,” while just “a scant 3 percent of the Earth’s surface [is] inherently fertile soil” (2008, p. 92). Clearly, in order for the world to feed itself, it has to conserve the living, fecund, very thin skin of this planet.
In the first and still most thorough study of global soil misuse, scientists in the Netherlands at the International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ISRIC) estimated in 1991 that humans have degraded, in ways described in Part I of this essay, 7.5 million square miles of land, an area that equals the U.S. and Canada combined (Mann, 2008, p. 90). Food riots have broken out every year over the globe for the past decade, due mainly to this degradation of the world’s soil.
Not all hope is lost, however. Rattan Lal, a soil scientist at Ohio State University, says that amending the world’s damaged soils with vast amounts of carbon can address several issues simultaneously. “Political stability, environmental quality, hunger, and poverty all have the same root. In the long run, the solution to each is restoring the most basic of all resources, the soil” (Mann, 2008, p. 90). Save the soil, put the people back to work, and allow them to feed their families—these are the recommendations of the ISRIC.
Solution: To preserve soil, water, and to reduce global warming, Bill Benenson’s (2009) movie Dirt, in a more prescriptive way than the ISRIC,recommends the following: Farm a variety of crops organically rather than monocropping with herbicides and pesticides, which is typically done in conventional agriculture. Further, we should fertilize with cow dung and compost rather than with nitrogen-heavy chemical fertilizers. The film also recommends collecting and trading seeds, planting trees, employing people to green urban spaces, joining a CSA for vegetables, and shopping for local seasonal produce at farmer’s markets when possible.
Here on campus, we show our students the film, and we harvest organic vegetables from our garden for our lunch salad bar, later composting back into our garden. The circularity of this system allows us to preserve the health of our soil and to teach invaluable lessons on soil conservation.
The Bee reason
Problem: During an interview on You Tube with the director Jon Betz and producer Taggart Siegel (2010) of the movie Queen of the Sun, Jonathan Kim (2011), the interviewer, points out that Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) sweeping the bee world over the last five years has profound consequences for humans, as 70% of human food comes from pollination by honey bees, including broccoli, apples, soybeans, citrus, and grapes (Kim, 2011). Queen of the Sun suggests several factors for the cause of CCD, from viruses to funguses to pesticides to mites to monocropping to giving the bees antibiotics. Scientists do not have a consensus; however, early data suggests that trucking bees to pollinate monocultures, such as almond orchards in California and apple orchards in Oregon, weakens bee hives because orchards lacking biodiversity draw an inordinate level of pests, which prompts the orchardists to spray immense amounts of pesticides, which the bees ingest, and which weakens to bees’ immune systems. Michael Pollan states in the film that this industrialized farm system eventually degrades into monocrop deserts, contributing to CCD.
Solution: We need to keep bees on biodiverse gardens, farms, orchards, and campuses across the country, to normalize the presence of honeybees and to help children to distinguish between the honey bee and the much more aggressive wasp or yellow jacket, which are drawn to our picnics and our lunch meats.
The sixth grade team has been working with a Portland-based beekeeper to keep two hives in the Catlin Gabel School apple orchard to pollinate the trees on campus and to raise honey for our cafeteria. Learning about bees by interacting with them on a biodiverse campus is an important way for students to mitigate CCD and to ensure the continuance of pollination by honeybees.
The Population reason
Problem: There were 36 million people in Europe in 1000; 45 million in 1100; 60 million in 1200; and 80 million in 1300. In three hundred years, the population of Europe more than doubled, which required more land to be cleared for food production. This was made possible by a relatively warm climate across Europe from 800 to 1200. Forests originally covered 95% of western and central Europe, but the need to feed the burgeoning population reduced the forests to about 20% (Ponting, 1991, p. 121).
World population first reached one billion in about 1825, and it had taken 2,000,000 years to do so. That population reached two billion by about 1925. The third billion only took 35 years, in 1960. The fourth was added by 1975. The jump from 4 to 5 billion only took another 12 years (Ponting, 1991, p. 240). If one looks at a graph of world population from 1700-2000, one is immediately struck by the fact that it resembles, in an eerie but understandable way, the dramatic spike in Earth’s surface temperature during that same historical period. The fact of modern global warming was first brought to the world’s attention by Houghton et al. (2001) with the publication of their Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Third Report entitled Climate Change 2001—Scientific Basis. Most people remember Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” graph of 20th century climate change from Al Gore’s (2006) documentary film An Inconvenient Truth (Bender, Burns, and David), showing how the 1990s were the warmest decade on Earth in one thousand years. Mann’s graph was peer reviewed by the IPCC and used as a basis for Figure 1, “Variations of the Earth’s Surface Temperature over the Last 140 Years and the last millennium” in the 2001 report (Houghton et al., 2001, Summary for Policy Makers section).
What, one might wonder, does population have to do with global warming? The common denominator here is oil, which was first drilled in the U.S. in 1859 in Pennsylvania. Oil helped the human species to triple in one century from two to six billion. Over a billion acres of land across the globe was brought into food production between 1920 and 1980 (Ponting, 1991, p. 244). Once the land was planted and harvested, the international food trade blossomed with two oil-backed innovations: the first being ocean and railway transport, the second being refrigeration. “The nineteenth century marked the end of several thousand years of largely self-sufficient agriculture . . . and the transition to an era where much of the food consumed in the industrialised (sic) countries was imported” (Ponting, 1991, p. 245). At the same time, greater mechanization of tilling, harvesting, storage, and transport led to a sharp decline in the number of farms. In the U.S. alone, farm numbers fell from 7 million in 1930 to 3 million in 1980, while over half of the produce was produce grown and distributed by just 5% of the total number of farms (Ponting, 1991, p. 246). The lesson here is that with the sharp increase in world population came a correspondingly steep rise in the fossil fuels used to feed that population as well as an absurdly precipitous decrease in the number of people farming sustainably in a biodiverse way for subsistence. Every year we add approximately 70 million more people to Earth, which requires, given our industrial food economy, greater inputs from machines, fertilizers, and pesticides—all oil-based, all contributing to land, air, and water degradation and global warming (Elbel & Stallings, 2009).
Solution: The challenge remains to feed a ballooning world population without polluting the world that needs to feed that population. There isn’t one answer here. Intersecting solutions, as proposed by the National Geographic Society’s (2012) Eye in the Sky project, include the following: One, preserve the soil by rotating crops and farming organically with a variety of crops on each farm, which can reduce the need to clear more woodland for agriculture. Two, contour plow, which reduces water-polluting runoff. Three, governments should limit or ban the use of DDT as an insecticide because of its spread through food chains. Four, affluent nations should eat less meat so that the grain and water that are given to cows can be redirected to humans who are hungry and thirsty.
Here at school, in addition to sustainability, another one of our mission objectives is global education. To that end, the fifth grade teachers teach the book What the World Eats, by Faith D’Aluisio and Peter Menzel (2008). Their photo-documentary allows students to compare and contrast the food that twenty-five families in twenty-one countries purchase and eat in one week. The text and teachers highlight the connections between family income, family size, geography, food availability, and diversity in diet. As a result of this study, students begin to internalize the connections between their families and the families of a billion others across the globe.
The Climate change reason
Problem: The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been telling us for twenty years that climate change is real, that the planet is getting hotter, that this warming causes extreme weather events, and that global warming, especially in the last hundred years, is human-induced (Henson, 2006, p. 273). Though there had been some spurious anti-scientific debate over global warming ten years ago, in their 2007 IPCC report, editors Pachauri and Reisinger confirmed, through further research, that this century’s precipitous spike in global warming is due to human greenhouse gas emissions (Summary for Policymakers Section; Subsection 2: Causes of Change).
Last winter, PBS News Hour (2011) released a slideshow online entitled “Weather’s Dozen,” which presented photographs of twelve extreme weather events in the U.S. during 2011, including tornadoes, heat waves, droughts, and floods. Each of the disasters exceeded a cost of one billion dollars in damages. The slideshow also presented a bar graph comparing financial costs of these disasters from each year over the last three decades. One sees that on this last slide, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that 2011 was the costliest year ever recorded for extreme weather damage (PBS Newshour, 2011, slide 13).
The planet’s climate has changed, and each year floods, tornadoes, and heat waves strike more and more people, which also, in a cruel irony, ravage the world’s nonrenewable fossil fuel energy sources. In the last two years, weather, plate tectonics, and geography have conspired to join forces in disasters involving our three main energy sources: the BP oil spill of 2010, the Upper Big Branch Coal Mine in West Virginia in 2010, and the Fukushima Daiishi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011. Scholars note that as long as people seek nonrenewable energy sources in hard-to-get-to places, given the unpredictable and increasing nature of extreme weather events, that more disasters like these are inevitable. Today, oil companies have to tread into environments, like the Gulf of Mexico or the Arctic Circle, that are unstable since they are in regions that host either hurricanes or drifting ice sheets. Acknowledging the risks, some analysts have called this energy policy “Energy Extremism,” since more disasters like the BP oil spill will inexorably follow with energy strategies that require drilling in environmentally unstable regions (Klare, 2010, p. 30-31). The world’s fossil fuel markets and the governments that court those markets seem oblivious to science and history—lessons that teachers and middle school students find mind-boggling.
Solution: I present Tim Flannery’s (2005) book We Are the Weather Makers for my students because it lays out both the threats and a wide variety of solutions to global warming that our students and school community might follow. Our goal as sixth grade teachers is to move our students from ignorance to knowledge, from hopelessness to compassionate action. Some of Flannery’s extensive suggestions include the following: buy a hybrid car or take public transportation; buy Energy Star appliances; install solar panels on roofs; insulate homes well; change all light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs; plug all electrical devices into power strips, and then turn off the power strips at night; switch plans with power companies to draw from renewable energy sources; recycle; don’t use plastic bags; resist buying products made with petrochemicals; eat locally, seasonally, and organically; turn off the tap when brushing teeth; use recycled paper; and cancel junk mail.
Here at Catlin Gabel School, our Facilities Director sends out monthly “Energy, Waste, and Water Reports” that detail electricity use, gas use, and water use, along with landfill by weight, recycling by weight, and compost by weight for the buildings on campus. We teachers and students are therefore able to chart our contributions to global warming throughout the year, and we are all aiming for zero waste and reduced carbon footprints.
The Nutrition reason
Problem: The book Forks Over Knives alerts us to the fact that“two thirds of adults [in the U.S.] are either overweight or obese, and obesity rates for children have doubled over the last thirty years” (Stone, 2011, p. 4). Obesity, therefore, has been rightly identified as a national health crisis, but what is perhaps less well known is that certain populations are at greater risk than others. The obesity epidemic is complicated, but the inner-urban neighborhood eyeball test can be as instructive as the arcane spreadsheet of a distant PhD when analyzing this issue.
What we see when visiting inner city neighborhoods in Portland is corner alcohol stores and fast food chains, not grocery stores offering nutritious fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. What is more, the poor don’t have places to play—very few parks or community centers. Further, in the inner city schools, PE is being cut, while the stories of unhealthy food in the public schools are ubiquitous. How exactly does childhood obesity connect to poverty and to ethnic background?
Poverty is racial, as a 2011 study of poverty by race and ethnicity in Portland showed. A staggering 52% of African American children live in poverty in our city, followed by 34% of Hispanic American children, 15% of Asian American children, and 10% of White children (Castillo & Wiewel, 2011). Noting that many of these children living in poverty also live in neighborhoods without farmer’s markets and grocery stores, one can also easily surmise that nutritional food and healthy diets are not as accessible to non-white Portland children. For our purposes of looking at food and gardening, we can conclude that not only is poverty racial, so is childhood obesity (Boak, 2007). Recent studies that take into consideration ethnic background in the U.S. find that Hispanic, Native American, and African American populations have higher rates of childhood obesity than Asian Americans and those self describing as White (Caldwell, 2009, para. 1-2).
Clearly, when we start looking at nutrition in our classrooms, our lenses have to expand to include ethnicity, income, demographics, and neighborhoods. That said, the fact also remains that all American children, regardless of ethnic background, street address, or family income level, are at risk of obesity and type II diabetes. There is something in our culture that is funneling our children toward these unhealthy ends.
Solution: The authors of Forks Over Knives tie together nutrition, cooking, the ethical treatment of animals, and greenhouse gas reduction strategies, and they have a simple message for improving our nutrition: eat a vegan diet that is plant-based and consisting of whole-foods. The closer the plant is to its original state in nature, the better. Their vegan diet, they claim, will erase obesity without compromising daily caloric, nutrient, or protein requirements. What is more, a transition to a vegetarian diet free of all meat, fish, dairy, and eggs will help to heal the soil, water, and climate ills facing our world. The authors point out that, at the current rate of population increase, Earth will hold nine billion people by 2050. The majority of those people will be born in China, India, and Africa, and as their incomes rise, they will eat more meat, cheese, and milk products. “The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that meat consumption will more than double by 2050, and milk consumption will grow by 80 percent during that period” (Stone, 2011, p. 35). While advocates of animal-based proteins argue that these increases are logical and beneficial for people’s health, the fact also remains that eating a variety of vegetables, legumes, unrefined grains, seeds, and nuts can supply a person’s daily protein requirements (Mangels, 1999). Another more obvious argument against eating more meat and drinking more milk in an ever-enlarging factory farm model are the deleterious effects upon soil, water, and climate.
The United Nations has found that farm animals create 20% of all human-induced greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide). However, “if every American simply reduced chicken consumption by one meal per week, the carbon dioxide savings would be equivalent to removing 500,000 cars from the road” (Stone, 2011, p. 40). People can also help to conserve water by eating less meat. The April, 2010, National Geographic magazine special issue on water has created a poster entitled “Hidden Water” that shows that “a human diet that regularly includes meat requires 60 percent more water than a diet that’s predominantly vegetarian” (McNaughton et al., 2010). In addition to water use, raising animals for food also “accounts for about 55 percent of soil erosion” (Stone, 2011, p. 39). To recap: we could reduce obesity and greenhouse gas emissions, while also preserving topsoil and water resources, if we ate less meat and animal products. What is stopping us?
On campus, our Director of Food Services regularly comes into our sixth grade classroom to teach lessons on growing, purchasing, and cooking with local produce. These classes are favorites among our students, as they get to do what all sixth graders want to do in school: eat! The sixth grade is also a leader class on campus for growing organic fruits and vegetables for our daily salad bar, enacting the principles of good nutrition, topsoil preservations, and water conservation.
The Globalization of food reason
Problem: The opening words of the movie Food, Inc. (2008) sum up the current industrial food system this way: “The way we eat has changed more in the past 50 years than in the previous 10,000, but the image that’s used to sell the food is still the imagery of agrarian America” (Kenner & Pearlstein).There are 47,000 products in modern average American supermarkets, which offer food out of season from all over the globe, encouraging the delusion that the world does not have seasons, that food is not tied to the earth, the weather, or to the seasons (Kenner & Pearlstein).The reality is that our current industrial food system is a factory, not a farm, with a small handful of multinational corporations controlling food from seed to plate. When the global food system is scrutinized in terms of global warming, it is unmasked as a main polluter: “Our food production—our fossil-fuel driven industrial model—[is] one of the biggest culprits, responsible for about one-fifth of human-caused greenhouse-has emissions” (Lappé & Lappé, 2002, p. 19-20).
Let’s look at the situation with chickens. Three or four companies control the beef, chicken, and pork in the U.S., and their goal is the same product every time. The chicken conglomerates today house chickens cheek to beak in giant feedlot barns without light, where they are unable to move around, and they are given antibiotics to stave off the eventual sicknesses that come from poor diet, nonexistent physical activity, and standing in their own feces. All that said, the chickens are bigger now in less time than they were 50 years ago (Kenner & Pearlstein). The same scenario outlined here could describe the life of most cows and pigs in the U.S. The meat we are eating from these factory farms is of inferior quality, and the lives of the animals are not being honored in even this most basic of humane ways.
Other companies, such as Monsanto, are busily engaged in seeking to gain control of the world’s food sources via genetically modified seeds. It is true that Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) seeds helped millions avoid starvation in the 1970s, especially in India, during the so called “Green Revolution,” when high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat, along with tons of NPK chemical fertilizers, gave a few decades of bumper crops. Those same GM seeds and fertilization practices, however, have stripped micronutrients from Indian soil, as the high-yielding varieties were also ravenous, drawing up zinc, manganese, iron, and other micronutrients that healthy soil need to support crops. What is more, decades of dumping chemical fertilizers and overwatering have also poisoned the soil with toxic levels of fluorine, aluminum, boron, iron, molybdenum, and selenium (Shiva, 2008, p. 102). Monsanto and other GM companies are responding by increasing their lab technicians’ time to come up with new seeds and fertilizers that they believe will feed Earth’s swelling population in the 21st century.
The promise established during the early years of the Green Revolution has faded into a bizarre world of the global food economy, where companies that make herbicides are selling us food seeds, and where we are industrializing the food at the cellular, genetic level. Let’s go back and trace the history to figure out an alternate path.
In 1970, Monsanto created Roundup. In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court extended patent law to cover “a live human-made microorganism” (Barlett & Steele, 2008, p. 158). From 1980, when there were zero genetically modified crops being grown in the U.S., to 2007, the amount of land planted with G.M seeds rose to 142 million acres planted in the U.S. and 282 million acres across Earth (Barlett & Steele, 2008, p. 160). In addition, during the 1980s, Monsanto began buying seed companies. Today, Monsanto is the largest seed company in the world (Barlett & Steele, 2008, p. 160). In the 1990s, Monsanto seized upon the opportunities opened by the 1980 Supreme Court case and began patenting life. The Green Revolution turned into the Gene Revolution. Today Monsanto owns 11,000 patents (Butler & Garcia, 2004). Deborah Koons Garcia (2004), director of the movie The Future of Food, believes that the company knows that whoever controls the seeds, controls the food. She speculates that Monsanto does not want biodiversity or food diversity; rather, she says, it wants to buy then patent all the seeds, then take those seeds off the market. Then they will produce only their Monsanto Roundup Ready seeds. Other analysts have come to the similar conclusions about this company, though we as teachers present these conclusions as theory while withholding the company name to protect community members who might work there.
From our perspective in the sixth grade, we are less interested in eviscerating certain companies than discussing farming practices as they relate to Mesopotamia. Therefore, we point out that “farmers who buy Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seeds [again, we withhold the company name] are required to sign an agreement promising not to save the seed produced after each harvest for replanting, or to sell the seed to other farmers. This means that farmers must buy new seed every year” (Barlett & Steele, 2008, p. 158). Such a practice of agreeing to deliberately let seeds go to waste reverses food growing practices since the founding of the first towns in the Fertile Crescent 9,000 years ago.
The connections between Monsanto, biodiversity loss, dying local economies, and poor nutrition are also becoming more evident, especially upon acknowledging that 70% of processed food—with its high salt, fat, and high fructose corn syrup levels—has a GMO in it. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the army of lobbyists that agribusiness has on Capitol Hill, it’s also against the law to label GMO foods in the U.S. (Kenner & Pearlstein, 2008).
Solution: Knowing that the leading manufacturers of carbon dioxide emissions come from transportation and coal-burning power plants for electricity generation (Flannery, 2005, p. 23 and 62), Vandana Shiva’s indictment of the global food industry that ships temperature controlled vessels around the world is rigorously logical. The solution we tell our students is to eat whole foods, not processed foods; local foods, not food from thousands of miles away; organic foods, not GMO food products; seasonal foods from the Northwest, not bananas from Ecuador in the wintertime. We realize that the children do not purchase the food that their families eat, but if they were to enact these practices, not only would they be allowing farmers to return to more healthy food production methods, they would also be encouraging millions of farmers across the world to save seeds and feed their families and communities with locally grown, organic, healthy food.
In their book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver and her family (2008) recount a year of living in Kentucky eating in this way, which necessitated learning to can and pickle, eat more roots in winter time, and reach out to trade with neighbors who raised the apples, beef, and lamb that her own family could not. Farmers and writers like Wendell Berry have been modeling this practice for years, and we encourage our students to return to it, whenever possible.
On campus we teach a Sweetness of Apples lesson (Reed & Stein, 2009) from the PBS series The Botany of Desire, based upon the book by Michael Pollan (2002). We harvest apples from our own orchard, and then purchase some other organic northwest varieties from a local market, New Seasons, which lists, on their produce bins, the grower name and orchard location. Students not only connect their diet to their campus, they can easily calculate the food miles accrued for the morning lesson.
The Oil reason
Problem: As sixth grade teachers, we recognize the urgency and our responsibility toward our students. One of my objectives during the Mesopotamia unit is explore two closely aligned myths: 1. Our world can support consistent and unlimited economic growth, even when China and India begin using the same amount of energy, per capita, as the U.S.; and 2. Oil, coal, and natural gas use can continue in the same way.
In order to assist the deconstruction of the myth of unlimited economic growth, I show Paul Gilding’s (2012) TED talk entitled “The Earth Is Full.” Gilding points out that we would need one-and-one-half earths to provide us with the available fossil fuels to maintain our energy usage for our current global economy.
The second myth is trickier to tease apart, as our daily lives seem to argue for its validity. I woke up in my heated house, had a toasted bagel baked across town, took a hot shower, and then drove my heated car on well-lit streets to a heated, well-lit school. Where is the fossil fuel shortage?
I tell my students that many scientists and journalists, like Kenneth Deffeyes (2005) and Tim Appenzeller (2004), believe that “peak oil,” first predicted by M. King Hubbert (1969, p. 196), is upon us. I explain to my students that since oil is a non-renewable, finite resource, there is day called “peak oil day” when oil producers reach their maximum amount in history they can extract from the ground and refine. That day is peak oil day, and every day after begins the decline of oil on this planet until its eventual depletion. The International Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, notes that 2006 marked the all-time high of 70 million barrels a day of oil using conventional crude oil production methods (Inman, 2010, para. 2-4).
Other writers, such as James Kunstler (2005), draw far-reaching conclusions from this concept: “The oil peak phenomenon essentially cancels out further industrial growth of the kind we are used to” (p. 28). What Kunstler means is that because our global economy is predicated upon the reliable supply and use of oil and gas, and because that supply will begin decreasing until it is gone in the near future, our global economy as we know it is, at best, destined to have to change, and, at worst, doomed. Kunstler goes on to show how the billions of people in the recently developed nations who now seek the automobiles, electricity, and materials goods that the EU and USA have had for the last forty years will push global warming, biodiversity loss, and biosphere pollution to their breaking points.
We’re smart, though, many argue. Scientists will figure out how to solve these problems. Again, Kunstler doesn’t think so. There will be no one technological fix, he says, to the intersecting problems of overpopulation, global warming, and the end of peak oil. Even with the combination of compatible technologies such as carbon sequestration, solar power, wind power, geothermal power, and hydroelectric power, the net energy output cannot match our current needs in the U.S., to say nothing of the energy needs of the rest of the world. He takes nuclear power off the table as foolhardy and unsustainable, and given the events of last spring in Japan as chronicled by BBC News online (2012), his omission seems wise (Kunstler, 2005, chap. 4). Noting the irony that non-fossil fuel energy systems, such as wind turbines, require burning more fossil fuels to produce and maintain the so-called green energy systems, Kunstler nonetheless urges us to move toward clean energy sources, regional economies, and lifestyles that are congruous with the planet’s diminishing energy resources.
While more politically moderate studies suggest that the global economy might slow down but rebound with new technological advances, the fact remains that we have already crested Hubbert’s Peak in the past five years (Deffeyes, 2005, p. 3). Furthermore, it is essential to remember that the remaining oil and natural gas under Canadian tar sands or oil shale in the western U.S. “could provide as much oil as the world’s current reserves, but the current methods of extraction are hugely greenhouse-intensive and environmentally problematic—not to mention expensive” (Henson, 2006, p. 289). Simply put, the world’s cheap, easily harvested oil is gone—and with it, the days of the global industrial food system are numbered as well.
Solution: At Catlin Gabel school, we not only teach Peak Oil and alternative energy in our studies of economics, science, history, and literature, we enact it with our symbolic “Empty the Lot Day,” which is a day that faculty, staff, students, and parents seek to reduce our school’s carbon footprint and do our part to keep the air clean for everyone. We encourage people to bike, walk, carpool, and take public transportation to work, charting the progress year to year, and incentivizing the process throughout the year by providing lunch tokens to teachers who carpool, bike, walk, or take public transportation to campus.
The Hunger reason
Problem: One in six Americans will struggle with hunger today (Levy, Mueller, Cochran, Hand, & Two Bulls, 2012, para. 1). This is a disquieting statistic, made even starker by the reminder that adults who struggle to feed themselves cannot often feed their children. In fact, “according to the USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture], over 16 million children lived in food insecure (low food security and very low food security) households in 2010” (Feeding America, 2012). One’s heart fills with grief wondering, Is there simply not enough food to go around?
Frances Moore and Anna Lappé (2002) counter this question, though: “For every human being on the planet, the world produces two pounds of grain per day—roughly 3,000 calories, and that’s without even counting all the beans, potatoes, nuts, fruits, and vegetables we eat, too. This is clearly enough for all of us to thrive; yet nearly one in six of us still goes hungry” (p. 15). What then, is the cause of all this hunger?
Joel Bourne, Jr. (2009) notes that global population is booming, but so is global warming and deforestation of land for more production zones. We know how this pattern goes, if we follow Diamond (2005) and Ponting (1991). Acting as mitigates on grain production across the globe, are three other factors: one, global warming is sharply curbing harvests of rice, corn, wheat, sorghum, cassava, and sugar cane across the world; two, staple crops such as corn and soybeans are being fed to livestock as the desire for meat and milk products skyrockets among the millions of new middle class citizens; and three, more and more trees are being cleared to make way for fields that are being converted to biofuels in a well-intentioned response to global warming, which is, in a grimly ironic catch-22, causing erosion, topsoil loss, and desertification, thereby creating more hunger (Bourne, 2009). This is exemplar of the vicious circle involving the triad of hunger-overpopulation-global warming, I tell my students, and it will be the greatest challenge of their lives when they get older.
Solution: Our 5th grade teachers are tackling these issues head-on, teaching the children about local food systems as an antidote to the global food supply chain that is bad for the climate, the land, and the people. In 5th grade, they have the students research CSAs, farmers markets, farm to school programs, the 100 Mile Diet, and the Low Carbon Diet. They use Chew on This (Schlosser & Wilson, 2007), The Omnivore’s Dilemma: Young Reader’s Edition (Pollan, 2009), and What the World Eats (D’Aluisio & Menzel, 2008)to teach local food systems, biodiverse farming practices, sustainable agriculture, and nutritious eating with a low carbon footprint.
In the middle school, including the sixth grade, we continue the work of our lower school colleagues by doing monthly service projects with Portland based community groups, such as The Blanchet House, Urban Gleaners, and the Oregon Food Bank, who are all working to end hunger in Oregon.
I also advocate, in my classroom and in the garden, a turn away from grain for livestock, and land for monocrops or biofuels, and instead a return to the practice of smaller, biodiverse farms that feed families and communities. Biodiverse, organic fields have healthier soils than those used for conventionally farmed monocrops, and organic, biodynamic farmers cause far less erosion and topsoil loss, use far less water, and do not causes long-term soil toxicity as farmers using conventional chemical farming practices do. Looked at in the short-term, organic, biodiverse farms may appear less productive than the larger, conventional chemical monocrop farms, as the former are smaller and seemingly less bountiful. However, looked at in the long-term, the organic biodiverse farms actually do more to address hunger and environmental stability in the world, as their practices preserve soil, do not contaminate drinking water, and do less to add to global warming. Connecting hunger and global warming, I also share with my students Vandana Shiva’s (2009) research, which “has shown that using compost instead of natural-gas-derived fertilizer increases organic matter in the soil, sequestering carbon and holding moisture—two key advantages for farmers facing climate change” (p. 56). When we talk with our students about hunger, we do not simply talk about access to food, although access certainly is a factor; we also talk about climate change, population, geography, vegetarian vs. omnivore diets, local vs. global food supply, short-term bumper crop vs. long-term sustainability, and chemical vs. organic farming. All of these issues are relevant, obviously.
 Berry is a national treasure. Some of his many books include Bringing It to the Table (with Michael Pollan), The Unsettling of America, and What Are People For?
 Other writers also point out that the U.S. has evoked some antagonism around the world from its political support of the despotic Saudi regime in exchange for continued, cheap access to the bulk of the world’s crude oil reserves. See Chapter 11 of Rachel Bronson’s Thicker Than Oil. Still others suggest that both U.S. military strategy during foreign wars and the decisions to maintain hundreds of overseas bases are both predicated upon securing that access to oil. See Chapter 3 of Kevin Phillips’s American Theocracy and Chapter 4 of Chalmers Johnson’s Nemesis. Whatever one’s conclusions, it’s clear that both fossil fuel use and fossil fuel access come at great environmental and political costs.
Climate Change Education
SWEet!: Using Cascade Snowpack to Teach Climate Change
by Padraic Quinn, Rachel Carson Environmental Middle School
Illustration by Bill Reiswig
Three years ago I was given the opportunity to learn with the scientific leaders of climate change research as part of a teacher-research partnership through NASA, Oregon State University and the Oregon Natural Resources Education Program (ONREP). I heard scientists talk about how forests act as carbon sinks or carbon sources, how LANDSAT data are showing us changes to our landscape, how ocean currents are affecting the availability of copepods eaten by salmon, and how the growth rings in the ear bone of a fish can be studied and correlated with the growth rings of trees on the nearby coast. All of these researchers were making discoveries that played a role in our knowledge of climate change. In addition, teachers were assigned to a scientist each year to conduct research over a two-week period. This allowed both the teachers and researchers to discuss their work and determine ways that it could be transferred from climate researcher work to middle school student work. This sharing of information included access to the scientists and their work, even when I returned to my classroom.
Transferring Professional Development to the Classroom
A significant portion of my classroom science curriculum is spent on independent research projects where students work through the inquiry process to answer a question to a problem on a science topic of their choice. Prior to starting our projects this year I assessed students on their graphing and analysis skills by teaching lessons on climate change in the Northwest, primarily using the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) SNOTEL system. This automated system, under the technical guidance of the National Water and Climate Center (NWCC) provides snowpack and climate data in the Western U.S. and Alaska. SNOTEL provides real-time data that is critical for understanding future water supplies and allows my students exposure to natural resource issues that will directly affect them and their families. Based on my experiences working with snow pack research, I designed a multiday lesson on climate change that used SNOTEL data to form the basis of the students’ inquiry.
Climate Change and NW Snowpack Lessons
Each student was asked to build a concept map for climate change showing connections among different components. Examples were given for a concept we had just finished studying (photosynthesis) so they were clear on how to see and depict interactions. The concept maps varied drastically, partially due to the fact that my classes include a mix of 6 – 8 graders but also because of the wide range of knowledge about climate change knowledge among my students. The discussion after the students completed their concept map and pretest was valuable, with many students wanting to share, ask questions and verbalize their current understanding of climate change.
Students were excited when they sat down, and I was in the back of the room with a very loud snow-cone machine. After they got over the initial disappointment of not getting a refreshing snow-cone, each table group was asked to agree on the volume of “snow” that was in the beaker I had filled and placed on their table. Students recorded their information along with a definition of SWE or Snow Water Equivalent. Our basic definition was the amount of water in the snow. Students also made a prediction of the SWE for the “snow” that was on their table. At the end of class, after melting, students determined the percent water content in their snow.
To show a real life example on a large scale of global climate change and melting I had students watch the TED Talk, “James Balog: Time-lapse proof of extreme ice loss”. Balog shows photographs from the Extreme Ice Survey that he began in 2005 and shared in his TED Talk from 2009. Students were asked to write down new information, “WOW” information and questions they had from the talk. Connections were made since some students had been to Alaska, while others had been in the Cascades Mountains; but the majority of the students did not realize that glaciers were present in the mountains located just 65 miles from where they were sitting in Beaverton, Oregon.
Days 3 & 4
To help connect students to their surroundings I had them pick an Oregon SNOTEL site out of a hat. The sites didn’t make sense to them yet but the names are intriguing with the likes of Jump Off Joe, Blazed Alder, Bear Grass and Mud Ridge. Students went online to gather general information about their SNOTEL site such as county, latitude-longitude, and elevation. The students also collected SWE, snow depth, YTD precipitation, and Max., Min. and Average Temperature (see attached student activity sheet). To get a view of the historical context of how SWE has changed over time students collected mean SWE for March in every year that SNOTEL data have been collected. In most cases this was approximately 1978. Students found wide variations in SWE from year to year but soon were asking about specific years from other sites and realized how data were similar from site to site. Many discussions revolved around why such large fluctuations exist, trends over time, temperature’s impact on SWE and elevation impact on SWE. These discussions were difficult for even some of the more accomplished 8th graders, but interest did not diminish due to complexity. Students graphed data, wrote a short analysis and compared data with another student whose site elevation differed (+/-2000’) from their own site.
Adopt-a-SNOTEL site: Long Term Snowpack & Water Availability Activities
As a follow-up to this activity students have been monitoring their SNOTEL sites since November daily for SWE, snow depth, YTD Precipitation and Observed Temperature. (See attached student monitoring sheet.) This work has continued to keep students interested and active in local mountain snowfall and their own SNOTEL site. Each month I am asking students to conduct activities and answer questions on their SNOTEL data. This includes graphing one or more of the parameters, discussing monthly trends in the data, comparing site data with another student and finding sciences article related to snowpack, glaciers and climate change. Students will conduct this activity throughout the winter and spring months as a way to continue their learning on climate change, make a connection to their sense of place and better understand how their water supply will be affected in the short and long term.
The range of benefits to me and my students provided by the Researcher-Teacher Partnerships project have been immeasurable. I have been given open access to an elite scientific community, the collaboration among educators has been inspiring, and my current and future students will continue to learn as researchers.
Natural Resources Conservation Service. (2013) SNOTELand Snow Survey & Water Supply Forecasting Brochure. National Weather and Climate Center, Portland, Oregon
Natural Resources Conservation Service SNOTEL Data, http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/snow/
TED Conferences, LLC. (2009) James Balog: Time-lapse proof of extreme ice loss http://www.ted.com/talks/james_balog_time_lapse_proof_of_extreme_ice_loss.html
Science expertise was provided by the following Oregon State University Faculty: Dr. Anne Nolin – Professor and Travis Roth-Doctoral Student in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences
These lessons were created using information learned in the Oregon Natural Resources Education Program’s Researcher Teacher Partnerships: Making global climate change relevant in the classroom project. This project was supported by a NASA Innovations in Climate Education award (NNXI0AT82A).
Student Activity Sheet Attached
SNOTEL Activity for Oregon.docx
SNOTEL MONITORING SHEET.docx
SNOTEL SWE for Oregon name: _______________________
Use this to record data for your SNOTEL site for the next month. In the table below you will find the information you will need to record for your site. This should be collected at least once per week for each day that week.
1. Go to Google Search and type Oregon SNOTEL
2. Click on first site shown which will be a map of Oregon
3. Use the drop down menu Select a SNOTEL Site to find your site by name. Or if you know where your site is located you can click on the correct red dot on the map.
Site Name: ____________________________________ Site Number: ___________________________
County: _______________________________________ Elevation: _______________________________
Latitude: _____________________________________ Longitude: _______________________________
5. Click on Last 7 Days under the Daily column for Snow Water Equivalent. Record the following.
The Power of One
by Michael J. Caduto
You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
— Mahatma Gandhi
bout five years ago I started to plan for a new book for children, parents and teachers about global climate change. I soon found that there was no shortage of materials that addressed how humankind is generating greenhouse gases, and explained the myriad ways in which this pollution is changing the weather and impacting people’s lives and environmental health worldwide.
Climate Change on a Kid’s Scale
When I began presenting a related program called Kids’ Power, I encountered a deep-seated concern among many young people who were struggling with this overarching environmental issue. Children’s natural instincts lead them to want to do something about the issues that affect people and the natural world, especially plants and animals, but climate change doesn’t lend itself to clear cut projects like Pennies for Peace or setting up a school-wide recycling program. Some students were vexed by the complexity of climate change; some felt that the issue was so grand they couldn’t take meaningful personal action to help solve the problem; still others saw it as a challenge to meet head-on. One thing was clear: In order for children to know what can be done to solve the problem of climate change, they must have a solid understanding of how our actions affect the environment, as well as what kinds of natural and physical forces can be used to solve the related problems.
The book that was finally published, Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun, explores climate change and includes activities for helping to solve the problem. It then takes a critical step beyond—helping youth to understand the principles behind the forces of nature so that they can harness the power of the sun and wind to generate renewable energy for use in everyday life. To those ends, it covers essential concepts in physics, such as the electromagnetic energy engaged in wind turbines and when pedaling a bicycle generator.
The Power of One
I also discovered a phenomenon that I call The Power of One: every single positive action taken by each individual adds up to create a huge impact. For example: whenever fortyfive kids convince their parents to replace just one incandescent lightbulb at home with an energy-efficient compact fluorescent light (CFL) or light-emitting diode (LED) bulb, they save more than enough energy to supply all of the lighting for one entire household. If every home in the United States replaced just one incandescent lightbulb with an energy-efficient bulb, it would have the same effect as taking 800,000 cars off the road— reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 9 billion pounds each year. And if each and every household in the United States simply started drying clothes online, instead of using a clothes dryer, we would immediately cut down on the use of enough electricity to shut down thirty average-sized coal-fired power plants. Every action we take to cut down on energy use and generate renewable energy combines with the actions of others to produce a positive synergistic effect.
Still, something else was needed in the book; inspirational stories about young people who have responded to current environmental challenges with projects and programs that are creating a brighter future. These young people come from throughout North America and from such far-flung countries as the United Arab Emirates. Their projects range from the “Cool Coventry Club” (Connecticut) that encourages commitments to reduce energy consumption, generate renewable energy and cut back on greenhouse gases; to anti engine-idling campaigns in Utah and Manitoba; and to generating local hydroelectric power for rural villages in the mountains of Indonesia.
The common element among all of these successful projects is that the children use local resources, harnessed by virtue of their own ingenuity, to make a real contribution toward fighting climate change and other environmental problems. They demonstrate how the solutions are all around us—blowing in the wind, shining down upon us from our home star and flowing through remote mountain streams. These “Green Giants” show that it is possible to (literally) set and run our clocks by using the forces of nature; to create a new world of renewable energy in which fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) will become obsolete.
We adults have left today’s children with a legacy of environmental problems on a global scale. The least we can do is provide them with the knowledge and skills they need, as well as a sense of their own personal power, so that they can understand how to live in balance with the environment today in order to create a sustainable future. Saving our home planet us an exciting, empowering and fun way to connect with other youth in a common cause. Following is an example of how twelve-year-old Adeline Tiffanie Suwana started an environmental movement in Indonesia that has become a powerful force for improving the lives of many people and caring for the natural world.
Friend of Nature
Adeline Tiffanie Suwana
Kelapa Gading Permai, Indonesia
Excerpted from: Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun: 22 Super-Charged Science Projects for Kids. ©2011 by Michael J. Caduto. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.
Adeline was eleven years old and had just graduated from Primary Six in Indonesia when she first got involved with protecting the environment. “I think the most important environmental issue that we face in Indonesia and the world today is Climate Change, which has already disrupted our environment and communities,” she says, “Disasters such as floods, drought, and sinking islands could become more frequent and more severe. Those concerns encouraged me to start asking children to understand, commit and act to save our Earth.”
Many of Indonesia’s low-lying coastal farms would flood if sea levels continue to rise due to global warming. Two thousand of the nation’s smaller islands could be underwater by 2030. Rising temperatures may shorten the rainy season and make storms more severe. These changes would affect Indonesia’s rice yield—the staple food for more than 230 million people.
“Nature is declining in quality at an alarming rate,” Adeline says, “starting from where we live and stretching to the sea—the river, the forest and the air that we breathe. The effects can be felt in the form of floods, air pollution and beach erosion due to climate change and global warming.”
But Adeline is hopeful. Speaking with wisdom beyond her years, she says that, starting at an early age, children need to be encouraged to grow a sense of love and caring toward nature and the environment.
Planting Trees in a Fragile Land
How does an eleven-year-old start to save the world? In July 2008, after graduating from primary school, Adeline spent her holiday teaching friends about the importance of mangrove trees. Soon they were planting mangroves at Taman Wisata Alam Angke Kapuk, the Jakarta Mangrove Rehabilitation Center.
She says that in order for the project to succeed, it was important “to make children include their parents so that they start realizing that it is time that we contribute to the world to save our mother nature from destruction.”
Adeline’s enthusiasm is contagious. She and her colleagues soon formed a group called Sahabat Alam, or “Friends of Nature.” The number of children who joined Sahabat Alam and the environmental projects they took on grew quickly. The group’s activities included ecotourism, planting coral reefs, freeing Penyu Sisik (hawksbill turtles) and cleaning marine debris from beaches.
Several national and international Environmental Organizations have now recognized the work of Sahabat Alam. In May of 2009 Friends of Nature received the Biodiversity Foundation’s (Yayasan Kehati’s) Highest Award and Appreciation in honor of the group’s commitment toward developing awareness among children and youth as the next generation of stewards of Indonesia’s biodiversity.
Adeline says she feels honored that she was awarded first place in the 2009 International Young Eco-Hero Awards (for ages eight to thirteen) by the San Francisco-based Action for Nature, a non-profit organization that aims to inspire young people to take action for the environment and protect the natural world in their own neighborhood and around the globe. She was also selected as an Indonesian Delegate by UNEP (United Nation Environment Programme) to participate in the 2009 TUNZA International Children’s Conference in Daejon, Korea in August 2009.
Adeline doesn’t see herself as being much different from any other twelve-year-old. “I am not the only Eco-Hero,” she says. “Children, youths and adults all over the world can do the same thing as long as they have the willingness and commitment. This comes first from the heart, then from sharing with friends and starting to take action.”
Helping Rural Families
Adeline also sees the connection between the needs of people and the natural world. “I would like to help our remote brothers and sisters to fulfill their dream [of] flowing electricity into their houses for children to study, watch television, cook and all other activities, especially at night.” She is now involved with a program that is bringing electricity into remote areas that have never before had power. She points out that, “Nearly half of Indonesia’s 235 million people live in areas without electricity.”
The solution? An Electric Generator Water Reel, a small hydroelectric generator that uses the natural power of a waterfall to produce what Adeline describes as “clean, environmentally friendly, Green, renewable and sustainable energy that does not increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere or worsen the greenhouse effect.” The water reel simply turns in the falling water and doesn’t affect the waterfall or the flow of the stream. (See the box called “Reel Math”.)
Sahabat Alam is getting lots of help from parents and sisters, as well as the Indonesian Ministry of Environment. For the first installation, the group traveled to the region of South Cianjur, West Java, which is a four-hour drive from Jakarta. After walking up into the mountains for another two hours, the team finally reached the village of Kampung Cilulumpang. By the time they left, the villagers had electricity for the first time in their lives. The group is now building Electric Generator Water Reels for two other villages, and it plans to bring this project to villagers throughout Indonesia.
“Previously, children’s voices were not heard,” says Adeline, “but now, we are coming together to voice our commitment to our national leaders and world leaders, to make peace and start having one voice to save the Earth.”
“I share and affirm with all of them that, even with our small hands, children can initiate, contribute and implement environmental projects starting from their small community to nation-wide projects to contributing to the world by helping hinder climate change and global warming and save the earth from further destruction.”
“We are the next and future generations of the world. In our hands, the world and its contents are at stake.”
Adeline Tiffanie Suwana’s Friends of Nature website
Action for Nature
Change the World Kids
Young Voices on Climate Change
YouTube video for Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun
Sources That Explain Global Climate Change:
Tiki the Penguin
Global Warming Question and Answer Web Site, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/
National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) Asheville, North Carolina
Renewable Energy for Kids:
EcoKids Canada, Earth Day Canada, Toronto, Ontario
Energy Kids, U.S. Energy Information Agency, Washington, D.C.
The Pembina Institute: Lessons & Activities, Curriculum Links
Natural Resources Canada’s Climate Change Teacher Resources: Grade 5
Michael J. Caduto, author, environmental educator, storyteller and ecologist, is well known as the creator and co-author of the landmark Keepers of the Earth® series and Native American Gardening. He also wrote Pond and Brook and Earth Tales from Around the World. His latest books are Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun: 22 Supercharged Projects for Kids (Storey Publishing) and Riparia’s River (Tilbury House). His many awards include the Aesop Prize, NAPPA Gold Award and the Brimstone Award (National Storytelling Network). Michael’s programs and publications are described on his website: www.p-e-a-c-e.net
The LitTER Project: A field method for using litter-fall to study carbon cycling
by Lee Cain & Nick Baisley
Astoria High School Science Department
During a NASA funded Teacher-Researcher Partnership program focused on bringing Global Warming and Climate Change into the classroom, a long-term ecological study was created to get students into the field to research leaf litter fall as it relates to the carbon cycle.
Through photosynthesis, carbon in the atmosphere is converted into plant matter, which then will fall to the ground as it continues to be recycled in the carbon cycle. Our investigation is designed to answer the following question: “What is the rate at which carbon as leaf litter moves from a coniferous forest canopy to the forest floor (C-flux as Mg/ha/yr)?” A secondary question we are hoping to answer with this study is: “How does the rate of C-flux relate to coniferous age and management techniques?”
For comparison we selected one 60+ yr. old stand, a 30-50 yr. old recently thinned stand, and a young closed-canopy regenerating clearcut (15-20 yrs. old). In each stand we laid out two parallel transects, each with nine litter traps (plots) spaced 10 meters apart. Along each transect we also placed a HOBO temperature and light data logger.
We are collecting, drying, sorting, and finding the mass of leaf litter, and other sources of carbon, that have fallen into the traps. With only one fully completed set of data, we have yet to begin to answer the key questions of this study. We foresee a period of at least five years before we gather a significant data base. The purpose of this preliminary year was to choose our sites, establish transects, and work through any logistical or methodological challenges that present themselves. In the fall, students will begin taking regular field trips to the sites in order to collect and analyze the data.
ig forests, big trees. Steep slopes, moss, and mycorrhizal strands of hyphae exposed under sliding boots. Climb up the slope, scramble down the log, lay the tape out, and spread the calipers. Then back up the slope again over the crisscrossed giant pick-up sticks to get the next measurement.
Later, taking a break for lunch, smashing microscopic biting midges against our sweaty arms, we have the chance to gaze upwards at the giant columns and wonder about what each tree has witnessed in its four or five centuries of existence. Then lunch is over, and it’s time to lay the tape out again.
This goes on day after day. Two science teachers from Astoria High School, we were in the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest in the Cascade Mountains. This forest is part of the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network, created by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 1980 to conduct research on ecological issues that can last decades and span huge geographical areas. We were working with Dr. Mark Harmon of Oregon State University’s College of Forestry to take follow-up carbon storage measurements on forest research stands that had not been measured since the ‘70s and ‘80s.
In the following week in the computer lab, we take apart the measurements and put them back together again. On graphs, the data slowly begins to crystallize in our minds. We begin to realize that the carbon cycle is not working in the same time-frame as our short lives. It takes time for change to happen. Perhaps much more time than we have to repair the damage that we have done in a relative blink of an eye.
We now notice forests differently. We see logs in a way we did not before. Or rather, we see their absence. Replanted and managed forests appear to be empty – something is just missing. It is not just a sense of something missing – one can visibly notice the absence. No giant pick-up sticks lying crisscross on the forest floor. Such a void of stored carbon.
Back in the classroom, our challenge was to get students to see the actual carbon cycle as we have, and not just as an abstract diagram in a textbook. Then they might just be able to understand their own role in the cycle. We knew that time would be the enemy, because we never seem to have enough of it. But if we can get them to see the carbon falling, even one leaf at a time, then we will have begun the process. So we came up with the “LitTER Project,” a long-term ecological study (9th grade Integrated Science) of the movement of carbon from the forest canopy to the forest floor as falling leaves (litterfall). We realized it might take 5 years or more before we acquire any really significant database, but hoped that the process of getting kids to actually handle the litterfall would set into motion a greater awareness of the carbon cycle.
Our key investigative question was, “What is the rate at which carbon as leaf litter moves from a coniferous forest canopy to the forest floor (C-flux as Mg/ha/yr)?”
A secondary investigative question was, _“How does the rate of C-flux relate to coniferous age and management techniques?”
Litterfall Traps — Three sites were selected within the Astoria area to give a wide range of forest ages and management approaches, yet also to be close enough to the high school to be practically accessible. For comparison we selected one 60+ yr. old stand, a 30-50 yr. old recently thinned stand, and a young closed-canopy regenerating clearcut (15-20 yrs. old).
At each site, two transects were laid out parallel, 20 m apart. All transects were set to have a 360 N orientation to be consistent in terms of solar angle of incidence. Nine litterfall traps (plots) were spaced along each transect at 10 meter plot intervals.
Each litterfall trap consisted of a black plastic rectangular floral tray (43 cm by 43 cm ~0.2 m2) lined with window screen to keep all litterfall from passing through the grid of the floral tray. Two wire surveyor flags were used to anchor through the trap into the forest floor and hold the mesh in place. The fluorescent flags helped to aid finding the traps on later visits. In addition, a surveyor’s ribbon with plot identification was tied to a nearby branch. Each plot was cleared of branches for 1 meter above the center of the trap.
A canopy cover photograph was taken by standing directly over the trap and shooting straight up. A HOBO temperature and light data logger was also placed next to each transect. This photograph can be digitized for percent cover using Photoshop or a similar software. Percent cover can then be used to draw relationships with carbon flux rates.
Student Visits — Students were bussed to the study sites and allowed about 1.5 hours to collect the first samples from the traps. Each team of 2-3 students was responsible for collecting the samples from one plot, and re-setting the trap to level and clearing the forest floor to level, flagging the branch above the plot and taking the canopy cover photograph.
Processing Samples — Litter from the traps was placed into black plastic bags labeled with masking tape and trap information. The empty trap was returned to exactly the same position until the next collection date. The bags were tied shut and taken back to the lab, where they were then spread out to dry for two weeks at an average temperature of 25 C. In teams, students then sorted and weighed the litter samples to the nearest 0.1 grams (Table 1) in the following categories: needles, broadleaves, total leaf, woody matter, reproductive (seeds, flowers, etc.), total plant, mineral matter, and animal (bug parts).
GRAPHS AND FIGURES
Table 1 – Teams of students were given single data tables to initially record the sorted raw weights:
Table 2 – Excel was used to summarize the raw data:
Figure 1 – Graph of summarized results of the first month of data collection:
While only one data collection had been completed at the time of publishing, the tables and figures in the previous section should give an idea of how we have arranged the data.
The most obvious result in the data, though it is early yet, is that there are apparently significant differences between study sites in terms of total leaf mass compared to woody matter. Over time, these differences should develop into differences in the rate of carbon flux in the three different systems. This should not be surprising, yet is exactly these sorts of differences that students will likely not be able to see prior to participating in a LitTER project. Because there is only one sample event so far, we have not yet constructed picture of the carbon flux as litterfall over time. What is not known at this time if these differences maintain their relative distances or if it equalizes over time.
While we are looking forward to pulling out these and other relationships from the data, we are mostly excited by the potential of this project as a tool to get students involved in science inquiry. Students become highly engaged during the data collection and processing. There are also many directions that we can go with the student learning about climate change with this project as a base.
There are still a few areas in the project protocol that we need to revise. Originally, the data collection was planned as a monthly activity that rotated between six Integrated Science classes throughout the school year. But it immediately became apparent that this didn’t work with the busy pace of school and the unforeseen effect of weather (windstorms, rain, snow days).
It is also a major organizational effort to get even one class of student scientists out to the nearest of the sites, let alone bussing six different classes to all of them. To adjust to this, we are now planning on making the data collection quarterly. Three times throughout the year, we teachers will team to collect the data (about 2 hours per site). This approach may eventually fall into the form of a senior project, to be carried out by a capable science-minded individual or group of individuals. Our 9th grade students will now experience the field data collection just once per year, on a fall day devoted to the project. While this is not as ideal as more frequent field trips, we feel that this is a balance we have to make to accommodate the public school setting of our project. At least this way the students have that field experience to help them to better relate when participating in the multiple data analysis events in the laboratory.
Muller-Landau, H.C. and S.J. Wright. (2010) Litterfall Monitoring Protocol, March 2010 version.
F.S. Peterson, J. Sexton, K. Lajtha. (2013) Scaling litter fall in complex terrain: A study from the western Cascades Range, Oregon. Forest Ecology and Management 306, 118-127 Online publication date: 1-Oct-2013.
This article was submitted for ED 901 – Researcher Teacher Partnerships: Making global climate change relevant in the classroom Spring 2014 ; Oregon State University & Oregon Natural Resources Education Program (ONREP)