Crestwood teacher wants to expand minds with hands-on research, science

Photo by Sherri Kolade
Crestwood High School junior Ahmad Awad stands near a weather station he helped create with a classmate.

Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — Pencils and pens? Check. New jeans and sneakers? Check. Brushing up on scientific research on topics like aerosols, surface ozone and climate, hydrology and climate? Double check.

About 120 students in Crestwood High School Advanced Placement Environmental Science Teacher Diana Johns’ classrooms will face a new school year of learning about scientific subjects taught outside of the typical science book.

Johns, also the department chair, was one of 44 teachers chosen to participate in the internationally recognized Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment Program for one week earlier in the summer in Boulder, Colo., at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. The GLOBE Program is based in Boulder.

Johns, who has participated along with many of her students in the program since its creation in 1995 by then Vice President Al Gore, said she plans to incorporate GLOBE-based research projects into her 2012-13 curriculum. Her students can choose which research projects to complete, based on their interests.

“Each class is going to have a project they (will) select based on their interest levels,” Johns said. “One group of students will probably do something with the Rouge River or the Ecorse Creek, where they will monitor some of the benthics, a collection of organisms living on or in the area of sea or lake bottoms … and see how they change over time.”

Johns added that after the students define what they want to study they will tie their research together toward the end of the school year and submit their information to the GLOBE program by April 2013.

During the week-long program in Boulder, Johns collaborated with teachers and planned future discussion sessions for her students to participate in via Skype. She said her students can learn about other students’ projects and compare the data they find. The program will help her students communicate their ideas over the internet, she said.

“(GLOBE) really has us connected really well through technology,” Johns said. “There will be a whole series of Skype programs where the kids will get together face-to-face online and talk to students from other schools.”

Johns said her students could talk to students in Georgia who are researching the ozone, or students in Ohio doing research on another topic.

Another new GLOBE feature for the students is a webinar, an online seminar, series featuring careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Johns said throughout the school year students may interact with professionals in the field they are interested in and can ask them questions and learn more about that career field.

Crestwood High School junior Ahmad Awada helped build a weather station with a classmate last year in a GLOBE-related project. A weather station helps students accurately measure wind, snow and other meteorological conditions.

Awada, who wants to be a pharmacist, said he developed a personal connection with the science projects he participates in.