Students of the World Unite!

from Tech&Learning


The promise of the Internet and other technologies to bring the world's classrooms together looks great on those television commercials and glossy magazine spreads, but what does the reality look like? Take a look at the GLOBE Program (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment). GLOBE is a worldwide, hands-on science and education program for primary and secondary students. It brings together students, teachers, scientists, and community members to collaborate on inquiry-based investigations of the environment.

Now in its 13th year, more than 40,000 teachers from more than 21,000 schools around the world have been trained in the GLOBE methodology, and students have contributed more than 18 million measurements to the GLOBE database. This currently encompasses four broad investigation areas: atmosphere and climate, hydrology, land cover biology, and soil. Current large-scale earth system science projects focus on seasons and biomes, carbon cycle, watershed dynamics, and local and extreme environments.

Students in Nepal share their GLOBE research results with representatives from their Superior, Colorado, sister school.


GLOBE is funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of State. Early partners included the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Education, says Teresa Kennedy, deputy director, who's been involved in GLOBE from its early days. "There have been a lot of players who have funded aspects of the program over the years, providing U.S. students with opportunities to work with other students and scientists around the world," says Kennedy, who holds a doctorate in education and spent 15 years in K-12 classrooms and another decade teaching at the university level. "By participating in GLOBE, students become scientists, making observations, forming hypotheses, gathering data, writing reports, and communicating the results to their peers around the world."

Early funding helped the organization to develop 54 step-by-step scientific protocols for the rigorous and consistent gathering of data in support of student research projects, and to provide for the 60 learning activities that teachers can incorporate into classroom learning. Now, most funding goes toward supporting the program's infrastructure, earth system science incorporation of earth-observing satellite data, the scientific development of student research projects and related science content, as well as maintaining GLOBE's Website and massive database. It also supports opportunities for students, teachers, and scientists to collaborate on projects and communicate their findings.

Students in Montevideo, Uruguay, identifying clouds using the GLOBE Cloud Chart.

Widespread users in the United States include the New York City Department of Education, the Texas Regional Collaboratives for Excellence in Science Teaching (an awardwinning statewide network of partnerships that provide sustained and high-intensity professional development to K-12 teachers of science in Texas), and the Alabama Department of Education. The latter agency has created a K- 8 curriculum segment that includes GLOBE methodologies.

Norwegian students measure tree height with the aid of a hand made GLOBE clinometer.


After a classroom teacher has been trained in GLOBE methodologies and identifies a research project, the teacher informs GLOBE about the project. The instructor is put in touch with schools in other countries working on the same research questions. Teachers, students, and affiliated scientists can then participate in the GLOBE schools network through periodic field campaigns and Web chats, or send email to each other through secure GLOBE servers.

The organization's stated mission is "to promote the teaching and learning of science, enhance environmental literacy and stewardship and promote scientific discovery." GLOBE strives to "improve student achievement across the curriculum with a focus on student research in environmental and Earth system science; enhance awareness and support activities of individuals throughout the world working to benefit the environment; contribute to scientific understanding of Earth as a system; and inspire the next generation of global scientists."

GLOBE researchers in Mexico testing soil for presence of carbonates.

The pinnacle of collaboration in the GLOBE Program is attendance at its world symposium, where teachers, students and scientists worldwide meet to learn and share their findings around a central topic at GLOBE Learning Expeditions. These events are held every three or four years. The next GLE takes place this month in Cape Town, South Africa. The theme is "GLOBE Research for Sustainable Communities."

GLOBE Students in Trang, Thailand, examining soil samples for a collaborative project with U.S. and Australian schools.

"GLOBE has far surpassed the expectations originally envisioned when the program was established," Kennedy says. "Grassroots efforts have been expanded into formal offerings."

The GLOBE Alumni Organization, for example, grew out of the desire for secondary school graduates to continue working with GLOBE on a volunteer basis. The recently formed GLOBE Parent Council is comprised of parents who support GLOBE efforts, and who seek external funding for student projects and research activities. The Council fosters a culture of positive engagement between parents and students through community involvement around environmental issues.

GLOBE student taking pH measurements.

GLOBE Learning Communities began to form around the world shortly after the program's founding to expand the reach of activities beyond individual classrooms. "Twenty-four/seven, there's always something happening at GLOBE," says Kennedy, referring to the worldwide reach of the program. While 18 million data measurements have helped advance knowledge about the world's climate and biomes, GLOBE's impact will continue to be felt as successive generations enter the program. "For me, personally, it's exciting to be involved in a program that's helping to nurture the next generation of scientists and policy-makers,"" says Kennedy, a mother of four. "They won't all become scientists, but many will become decision- makers and leaders in their communities, informed citizens for the next generation."