Student Research for an Informed Generation

by Teresa J. Kennedy1 and Donna J. Charlevoix2

“GLOBE teaches science content and also the process of science. Facts are important, but the younger students are, the more important it is to learn the process of science. Science isn’t about providing answers as much as it is about asking questions,” said 1998 Nobel Laureate Dr. Leon Lederman.

Connecting and inspiring the next generation of scientists and informed citizens is our mission, and we believe it is more important than ever. Climate change is one of the most important issues of our time. The more students understand how science works, the better the chances are that they will be informed eco-citizens, better able to make choices about what to consume, where to live and how to work.

These students have conducted hands-on research that allows them to understand how the Earth system works, and to contribute to an international scientific database, providing their peers around the world, as well as scientists engaged in environmental research, with access to data that would otherwise go uncollected.

GLOBE and WMO collaboration

WMO and GLOBE have been working together for several years to increase environmental awareness, develop scientific understanding of the global environment and support achievement in science and mathematics education around the world.

GLOBE and WMO have introduced scientific, computer, and communication technologies into classrooms around the world. National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and Regional Meteorological Centres have promoted local scientists to work with our country coordinators and trainers, increasing the number of scientists working directly with students and teachers. These centres have been involved in regional activities such as teacher training and assistance to schools that lack access to computer technology and electronic communications. WMO representatives have participated in GLOBE training activities in all regions, assisting students and their teachers with the calibration of instruments and collaborating with students on research projects.

GLOBE partnered with the WMO to organize a Global Climate Change Research and Education Workshop in 2009. This helped set the foundation of a worldwide student climate research campaign. Topics for student research that emerged from the meeting included:

  • Exploring ecosystems and energy;
  • Climate, carbon and your footprint;
  • Global climate – local impacts;
  • Climate, pollution and human health.

Join the Student Climate Research Campaign

In September 2011, GLOBE will launch the Student Climate Research Campaign. WMO is a collaborator in this campaign, which aims to engage students around the world to investigate and research their local climate, and share their findings globally. Students can investigate local issues related to climate through learning activities, international collaborative discussions on climate, data collection, and international short-term and longer-term research investigations or campaigns.

© GLOBE Students conduct hydrology protocols in the Persian Gulf.

The campaign will:

  • Promote student-led climate research and strengthen international student-scientist collaboration;
  • Increase students’ understanding of climate, specifically the difference between weather and climate;
  • Increase students’ understanding of and ability to conduct scientific research focused on
  • Improve the global understanding of primary and secondary students through increasing collaborations among students, teachers, and scientists focused on understanding the interactions in the Earth system; and
  • Extend partnerships with international science organizations.

GLOBE and WMO hope to involve students of all ages in climate studies through learning activities and international events, referred to as Intensive Observational Periods; empower students, teachers and community members to take action on climate-related environmental issues; and inspire students to explore career options in science.

National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and Regional Meteorological Training Centres are strongly encouraged to engage their education and training focal points in the campaign. They can liaise with Ministries of Education to work with GLOBE Country Coordinators, teachers and students, local scientists, and especially to support observation capabilities, provide computer access and help shape teacher training events.

Experiential learning

Students make initial observations about the environment and pose questions; design investigations and take environmental measurements at or near their schools using measurement protocols and calibrated measurement equipment; report their observations via the Internet; use tools to create maps and graphs from their own data, and those of schools around the world; analyze their data and other data sets to form conclusions; and as all scientists do at the end of their research, present and publish their results.

More about GLOBE

GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) is a hands-on, school and community-based science education programme uniting students, teachers and scientists in research about the dynamics of the Earth’s environment.

Since 1995, over 1.5 million students in over 23 000 schools in 111 countries have taken GLOBE environmental measurements for use in their own research and for use by scientists around the world. More than 55 000 teachers have attended GLOBE professional development activities. GLOBE students have reported over 22 million environmental measurements in the areas of atmosphere, land cover, hydrology, soil and Earth as a system.

Students conduct science by taking measurements, analyzing data, and participating in research collaborations with other students and international scientists engaged in cutting-edge Earth system science research. GLOBE students have been involved in United Nations World Water Day events, Surface Temperature Field Campaigns, Mt. Kilimanjaro student research expeditions, the International Day for Biological Diversity, National Lab Day, Global Day of Service, Live Earth and more.

One such activity was the WMO-GLOBE youth initiative at the WMO World Climate Conference-3 (WCC-3) in Geneva, Switzerland in 2009. Student messages on the topic “Youth Working to Solve Local Problems through Weather and Climate Research” were on display to provide scientists, policy-makers, global business leaders and media representatives with inspirational examples.

GLOBE is funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation and supported by the U.S. Department of State. It is implemented through a cooperative agreement between NASA and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. The International Division is located at a UCAR satellite office at the University of Texas at Tyler.

© GLOBE Many countries around the world participate in the GLOBE programme. Participating countries are marked in green on the map.

This student research is supported by an international group of implementation partners consisting of country coordinators and US representatives who recruit, train and mentor teachers. Partners work with scientists, community members and collaborating organizations to promote student learning, backed by regional offices which provide support services, including serving as the help desk for countries in each region.

Partners represent government ministries, as well as public, private and non-profit organizations that implement activities and provide local funding for teacher training and student research opportunities. Workshops help teachers gain content about core Earth system science concepts and provide pedagogical methods to teach children through hands-on, interactive approaches. Partners often help teachers and their students set up study sites, including instrument stations, and connect to scientists to work together on local, national, regional and international research projects.

Schools, led by teachers and administrators, link their projects of similar interest to one another. Scientists contribute to protocols and learning activities for student use around the world. (All GLOBE materials are available for free download at These scientists participate in professional development workshops, mentor students and teachers through scientist forums and podcasts, and inquiry formats, write research articles that include student authors, and take part in Learning Expeditions (every 3-5 years) where students share their research with peers and scientists from around the world. To date these symposia have been held in Finland, the USA, Croatia and South Africa. National and regional student research events take place annually, and provide students with the opportunity to establish friendships and develop research partnerships aimed at bringing together the next generation of international scientists.

Student research ranges from studies of the environmental effects of the 2004 Sumatran tsunami in Thailand, to water quality monitoring in India, Egypt, and other countries around the world, to monitoring budburst and the phenological development of local trees in Europe and North America, to investigating how seasonal variations in temperature, rainfall, and relative humidity affect the incidence and morbidity of malaria in Africa and Latin America.

This project-based approach to learning represents an educational experience that gives students environmental and social literacies, creative problem-solving skills, and the commitment to engage in responsible individual and collaborative actions for the benefit of their local, national, regional and global environments.

Sharing our lessons in science education

For those who are developing science education initiatives, here are some of the lessons we have learned.

  • Align content for teacher training workshops with local and national curriculum programmes.
  • Hands-on research makes the greatest long-term impact with students. Combining such an approach with interactions between students and scientists in other communities and countries provides new perspectives and understandings about the world, other cultures and their sense of global community.
  • Cross-disciplinary approaches through science motivate teachers and their students through natural interconnections between mathematics, technology, geography, language and many other subjects.
  • Facilitate science, education and funding collaborations to make outreach sustainable. Be sure that partners have defined, clear roles at every level, and involve institutions in science and education.


Students in Uruguay discuss cloud observations.


Students from France and the USA measure the aerosol optical thickness of the atmosphere with a sun photometer. 


1 Teresa J. Kennedy, Director, International Division, The GLOBE Program, USA
2 Donna J. Charlevoix, Director, Science and Education Division, The GLOBE Program, USA

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