Student Scientists Present Research at Coweeta Laboratory

Forest Service hosts weather-savvy fifth graders

Mountain View Intermediate students, teacher Jennifer Love, and Coweeta staff take a break during their tour of the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory. (Photo by U.S. Forest Service.)
Mountain View Intermediate students, teacher Jennifer Love, and Coweeta staff take a break during their tour of the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory. (Photo by U.S. Forest Service.)

At the U.S. Forest Service Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory (Coweeta) in Otto, North Carolina, scientists investigate patterns of weather and climate and the impact that climate change is having on southeastern forests. Recently, 50 fifth graders from the nearby Macon County Mountain View Intermediate (MVI) School presented their own weather research projects at the laboratory, which is part of the Forest Service Southern Research Station Center for Forest Watershed Research.

MVI fifth-grade science teacher Jennifer Love challenged and worked with her students to conduct their own weather research projects, including analyzing temperature, humidity, and rainfall and how these topics relate to forests. The students developed their own hypotheses, collected and analyzed data, and formed research conclusions – in other words, they did just what their adult counterparts at Coweeta might do.

During their visit to Coweeta, the students presented their results to classmates, parents, Coweeta staff, as well as Macon County School District President Terry Bell, County Commissioner Gary Shields, NC State Senator Jim Davis, and Macon County School Superintendent Chris Baldwin. For most of the students, this was their first scientific research project and professional-style presentation of results.

It wasn’t all work for the MVI students, though. They toured one of the Coweeta’s weather stations, where they measured water in a rain gauge and learned how much annual precipitation falls at the station (a whopping 77 inches). They hiked to a stream weir, learning about stream flow, taking a guess of how much water flows past every second. Finally, they visited Coweeta’s Analytical Chemistry Lab where they helped scientists measure the pH of water samples.

“The presentation part was fun, and so was the tour,” said fifth-grader Logan Ackley. “I really liked the weir and all the stuff at the climate station.” Classmate Sativa Stormer added, “I really liked the climate station, and doing the pH testing.”

As both a National Science Foundation Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site and a Forest Service Experimental Forest, engaging local middle-school students in science and the outdoors is an important part of the outreach program at Coweeta. Annually the Coweeta LTER Schoolyard Program reaches approximately 1,000 K-12 students. The mission of the Coweeta LTER Schoolyard Program is to engage students in place-based education through real and relevant scientific research.

For more information, email Chelcy Ford Miniat at cfminiat@fs.fed.us.

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